ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us. We`ll be back here tomorrow night at 6:00 P.M. Eastern. Thanks as always for watching. But don`t go anywhere because HARDBALL with Chris Matthews is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Hopeless. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington. We`ve got a big show tonight. We know who is pushing Trump to start a war in Iran, the big story who`s not pushing them? Speaking of war, Joe Biden`s comments about hit former segregationist Senate colleagues has got opponents hopping.
First up, though, showing up isn`t enough. The only real witness the democrats have managed to bring before the House Judiciary Committee walked in today gagged. Hope Hicks, the President`s former Communications Director and close aide showed up for a closed door hearing, but that`s about it, showed up, following orders from the White House, refused to answer any questions about her time in the Trump administration or even in the transition, as The New York Times has noted. She even refused to identify the location of her West Wing office.
The real question is why did anyone bother? In a letter to the committee yesterday, the White House said that Hicks is absolutely immune from being compelled to testify. Democrats seeking cooperation were clearly frustrated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Almost every question I`ve observed, you know, she is refusing, you know, to answer, and that`s a problem. And, you know, saying that she`s doing it at the behest of the White House. Again, she`s doesn`t have to follow their orders, by the way. These are lawless orders. There is no penalty for her if she doesn`t follow them.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): The President is continuing to engage in a cover-up to try prevent Congress from finding the facts and for the American people to know the full truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler refused to admit defeat. He told NBC News the White House is having the doctrine of absolute immunity, which we`ll destroy in court. As a close aide to the President, Hicks` participation in today`s hearing was initially viewed as a breakthrough for the committee. Hicks testified to the Special Counsel and featured prominently in the Mueller report. In fact, her name, Hope Hicks, is mentioned over 180 times in the Mueller report.
Her appearance before the committee today prompted a new round of attacks from the President who said, quote, democratic congressional hearings are rigged. After today`s hearing, he Tweeted, so sad that the democrats are putting wonderful Hope Hicks through hell.
Well, Trump also went after the Mueller probe itself, Tweeting, if I didn`t have the phony witch hunt going on for three years, I would be way up in the polls right now. With our economy, winning by 20 points, but I`m winning anyway.
I`m joined right now by Democratic Congresswoman, Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, who`s on the Judiciary Committee. She was at the hearing today, behind closed doors. Paul Butler is a former federal prosecutor, David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief for Mother Jones.
Thank you, Congresswoman, for so much. You know what we don`t know. Did you -- what -- I`m going to give you all the time you want. What did you learn of probative value about potential impeachment of Donald Trump?
REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): What I learned was, number one, we did finally have somebody in who was a witness to this history in front of us. So I`m not as hopeless as you might be. Think of it, she was front row seat in three different capacities, two of which we could question her about. She was front row as a Press Secretary. She was a front row seat as spokesperson on the transition. And then, of course, she went into the White House.
What happened today was dozens of objections based on this false blanket immunity by two Deputy White House Counsels, who blocked her from testifying before us on anything having to do with her time inside the White House, January 20th of 2017 until she left the following year. But that did not prohibit us from asking her about her work both on the campaign and then in transition.
So I`m not hopeless. We got some information. But I think it was telling that this White House did not want her to say one word about her work.
MATTHEWS: Well, there she is wearing sunglasses going into the meeting room. I don`t know. I get the feeling she didn`t want to say anything from the time she agreed to testify. Did you get a sense upfront that she would give you something of value about Trump?
Let me go through some possibilities. If terms of the hush money payments as potential campaign payments, the Jeff Sessions, please take back your recusal, that sort of thing, the Trump Tower meeting afterwards when they`re on Air Force One, they put together the cover story about being to do -- having to do with adoption of Russian kids, did you get any information on those three fronts?
DEAN: No, because of the blockade by the Deputy Counsel for the White House. Each time they claimed blanket immunity saying that she could not comment on anything that she learned while she was employed in the administration.
I was in the room for the beginning when Chairman Nadler asked her specifically about the Lewandowski documentation of notes regarding telling Jeff Sessions to make sure that he would unrecuse or that he would make some very boastful speech about the President. She was prohibited and she agreed to be prohibited from talking about that with the exception that she did think it was odd that that role was being played or that the President asked Mr. Lewandowski to play a role. After all, he was not in the administration. What role would he have to play with Mr. Sessions?
MATTHEWS: We`re watching her. Congresswoman, thank you so much.
We`re looking at a picture now of Kasie Hunt, my colleague, trying to get a word from her as she is entering the witness room. Do you have a sense that -- well, just as a political figure, do you get a sense that they have decided they`re going to go through the form of showing up but not give your committee anything?
DEAN: No. I think they found themselves between a rock and a hard place, because she is now a private citizen. And so they had to deal with the fact that we made an agreement to have her come in. Her testimony will be transcribed. And we have the ability to question her, as did our council, as did our Chairman.
So I think the administration finds itself between a rock and a hard place. And it`s quite usual that she came in and spoke to us about whether or not she saw contacts with Russians or Russian officials during the campaign. She was right upfront for that.
MATTHEWS: Tell us about that, if you can.
DEAN: And that was an area of questioning that I wanted to ask her about. And I was making sure that I limited it to transition and/or campaign. And so I asked her about communications with Russians or Russian officials. She tried to say that there were no communications whatsoever.
When I asked a little more specifically, she admitted there were probably an email or more. She didn`t think they were relevant. And I tried to just impress upon the witness that it wasn`t up to her to decide what was relevant, that we were here to get the facts, the truth before the American people. So I had some stonewalling there.
MATTHEWS: Did you come into the meeting with that position on whether we should proceed with impeachment?
DEAN: Maybe I`ve told you. I have called for impeachment inquiry at the moment that Mr. McGahn failed to answer our lawful subpoenas. So I feel I am one of the foot soldiers on this Judiciary Committee, a worker for this caucus. And at the time that McGahn ignored and stonewalled and, of course, with the aid of this administration, our lawful subpoenas, I have called for an impeachment inquiry. And I believe that`s what we have to do.
MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you.
Paul Butler, give us a sense of this claim of executive privilege. And, I mean, I look at this political person, Hope Hicks. She`s now in private sector. But there is a thought she may go back and work in the next campaign. She`s a political warrior.
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. So the White House is going scorched earth. They`re saying that no person who works in the White House should ever have to answer to Congress about anything that happened during their time in the administration. Hope Hicks wouldn`t even say where her office is.
Now, I think that a court would take seriously the idea that the President should be able to have sensitive conversations with his top advisers that remain private but that has to be balanced against the congressional power and right to do oversight.
The democrats are also saying that Hope Hicks waived her right when she went and spoke to Robert Mueller for hours. Her name appears in the Mueller report 183 times.
MATTHEWS: To what effect? Remind us.
BUTLER: So she was there. She knows where the bodies are buried. She was there when Comey was fired. She was there when Flynn was fired. She was there when Trump tried to fire Mueller. She was on Air Force One when Trump dictated that memo that was a lie about what happened in Trump Tower.
MATTHEWS: So she was an intimate, the kind of person that a political figure or a business person would trust to be in the room all the time, a fly on the wall?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Under the White House definition of executive privilege or immunity, as they call it, you could be a White House official, you could see someone walk in and pour a million dollars on the President`s desk to bribe the President and you still are not compelled to talk to Congress.
MATTHEWS: But if this were impeachment hearings right now, the real thing, then it would be a criminal investigation?
CORN: There is an argument that under impeachment, the Congress would have a greater right to break through this wall they`re putting up. And having spoken and then done some reporting on this, the Judiciary Committee now intends or at least is considering taking this issue to court. They wanted to bring her in because they know to get Don McGahn and others before them, they`re going to have to take this issue to the courts. And so that`s why they agreed not to do it publicly.
MATTHEWS: What do you think about that? Do you think that courts -- either one of you guys, do you think the court is going to rule that they`ve got to testify, no more gagging rule?
CORN: I think it would be very -- you are a better expert. I would just say briefly that I think it would be very hard pressed for the court to buy, lock, stock and barrel this argument of the White House that nobody in the White House can ever be forced to talk to Congress.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Paul?
BUTLER: I think David is right. But the problem is when? Again, it`s easy for the Trump administration to try to run out the clock so that the dirt doesn`t come out until after the election. Justice delayed is justice denied.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to the Congresswoman. Thank you. Congresswoman Dean, let me ask you what is your hope? Because you are doing this as a political figure with a very important charge here to try to get the story here on potential impeachment. Do you think the -- are you hopeful, you and the Chairman, Mr. Nadler, that you`re going to get the courts to rule on your side and force these witnesses, like McGahn and Mueller and the rest of them to come forward?
DEAN: You know what, and I want to be really precise, while I was in the room for the questioning and recognized we also had another important hearing in Judiciary going on on the issue of reparations, H.R.40. So we had these competing terrifically important hearings going on.
While I was in the room and during my questioning of Hope Hicks, the only assertion that the lawyers made was not privilege, was not executive privilege. It was this blanket immunity. So I`m certain that the Chairman wanted that on the record and it was on the record.
MATTHEWS: What`s that mean?
DEAN: Exactly. There is no such thing. So it will not hold up in a court of law.
So it was not an assertion of executive privilege, which we know was waived in large measure during the Mueller investigation. The President failed to claim it. And so he doesn`t have privilege. They`re claiming something like immunity, blanket immunity. The court will not uphold it. It is not a salient argument. And so that`s something we had to get on the record.
Again, think about this. This woman could be an important voice for this administration to proclaim its innocence and they have silenced her.
MATTHEWS: I just wanted the whole manner of coming in with sunglasses on, not answering Kasie Hunt`s question. There seems to be a point of view that they can stonewall this, literally.
BUTLER: That`s right. And, again, the story is the thing. So the democrats would love to see the Mueller report acted out by people like Hope Hicks. What did Donald Trump say? Did he know -- why did he lie about this meeting with the Russian lawyer? You know, what did I tell you about why he wanted to fire Mueller? We read those things now in the Mueller report. But if we actually get to see and hear witnesses, like Hope Hicks, is a different ball game.
MATTHEWS: I`m wondering about Adam Schiff. So I know he`s been going back on it, pushing back, but the idea that the clock is running. Anyway, meanwhile, democrats want Robert Mueller, of course, to testify before the House Intelligence Committee even as it begins to issuing a subpoena to get him, if that means getting him by subpoena.
Here`s congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut on that point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): It`s going to happen. He`s going to get subpoenaed. Look, we have a profound interest inside the Intelligence Committee in hearing about something that we haven`t heard nearly enough. And, by the way, it will be behind closed doors.
I do believe that Mueller will be subpoenaed and I do believe that he will show up. He`s not the kind of guy who ignores a subpoena.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But Committee Chair Adam Schiff, he`s Chairman of the Intelligence, yesterday, acknowledged that time is running out. The calendar is running out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I think time is running out. The best way to get a witness to testify is if you can get them to testify voluntarily. And particularly, I think, with someone like Bob Mueller making an appeal to his patriotism, a sense of duty is the right way to go. But at the end of the day, he needs to come testify.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Is august too late?
SCHIFF: Yes, I think it is. You know, I think we`re reaching a point where if we can`t reach an agreement, I hope we will, then we`ll have to use a subpoena.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, I`m a skeptic. I think that Speaker Pelosi is maybe one of the greatest speakers in history, in political terms, and she keeps the caucus together. I accept all that political talent and whatever seriousness, if you call it that, maybe.
But I don`t think you`re going to impeach. I don`t think the calendar is running out. I think we`ll have this conversation in October, it won`t be any different, because you`re not get the big witnesses to give you game changing blockbuster testimony, which I think is going to take, to shake loose the middle of the American people, not the Trump block but the middle. What do you think looking to the future?
DEAN: Fortunately, I think we have a very strong strategy and it`s led by Speaker Pelosi along with our caucus council. You have seen we`ve taken cases to court and our side has been upheld against the obstruction off this administration. We`ll continue to do that.
Today was one of the building blocks on that, where the Chairman got on the record over and over again, this false claim of blanket immunity, which we`ll be able to defeat in court.
So I don`t believe the clock is running out. I think the American people have a right to the information. I believe Mueller will come before either Intelligence or our committee. I hope he comes before both. The Aerican people need to hear from Mueller. And I don`t care if it is actually a recitation of the report, because it will bring the report and the extraordinary wrongdoing to life.
Let`s not forget what volume one is all about. It is about a systematic and sweeping interference with our election in 2016 by the Russians. It is about the welcoming of that by this administration, wallowing in it. And now, we have a president a week ago who said he would invite other foreign countries to help, illegally help him in his next re-election. We`ve got to put an end to that.
So the clock is not running out. The constitution is much stronger than this administration and its corruption and its indecency. I`m very helpful.
MATTHEWS: We`ll see. Thank you so much, U.S. Congresswoman Madeleine Dean. I agree with all your values, I do worry about the clock. Thank you, Paul Butler. Thank you, David Corn.
Coming up, President Trump launches his re-election campaign, but Trump 2.0 looks a lot like 1.0. Can he sell the same message, his same opponent? By the way, he`s not running against Hillary Clinton. Get him the word. He`s not doing it. That`s what he was attacking last night.
And Joe Biden takes some heat for his talk of civility, specifically his ability, he said, to work with old-time segregationists in the U.S. Senate. Some of his democratic challengers fired back saying Biden is wrong and suggesting he`s out of touch with today`s Democratic Party.
And tonight, Biden`s campaign is responding to that criticism, much of that coming up. Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Hardball. After weeks of hype and dozens of self-promoting Tweets, the President`s 2020 kickoff last night turned out to be just another Trump rally. In fact, it sounded exactly like one of his more than 300 rallies back in 2016. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S PRESIDENT: Crooked Hillary.
Crooked Hillary deleted and acid-washed 33,000 emails.
33,000 emails were deleted and acid-washed.
AUDIENCE: Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp!
AUDIENCE: Build that wall! Build that wall! Build that wall!
AUDIENCE: Build that wall! Build that wall! Build that wall!
TRUMP: I will never, ever let you down.
I will never, ever let you down.
My only special interest is you.
My only special interest is you.
You want to shut down this rigged system once and for all, then show up November 3. That`s your day, a big day, and vote, vote, vote.
With your votes, you can beat the system, the rigged system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Isn`t that? Our producer put together 2016 and 2020 -- actually, 2019. It`s exactly verbatim.
Anyway, with no foil just yet, the president just last night trotted out his 2016 attacks on Hillary Rodham Clinton. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC. Hillary Clinton, crooked Hillary. You remember, during one of the debates, when crooked Hillary said -- the free pass they gave to Hillary and her aides.
Hillary use the word deplorables. I think Hillary Clinton made a big mistake with that speech.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined by Jill Colvin, who is White House reporter for the Associated Press, and also with us yesterday, and Susan Del Percio, Republican strategist.
You know, I don`t know.
Susan, you`re the pol here. I guess I am, too. But let me ask you this about -- it looks to me like he`s desperately, desperately trying to find a Hillary Clinton in 2020. So, until he finds the new Hillary Clinton, he sticks with the old.
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Absolutely.
Plus, we also know he has a very limited vocabulary, Chris. So that explains a lot as well.
But I think that what he is going to use, instead of the Hillary Clinton -- I mean, he will continue to use her for a while -- is the line that America will never be a socialist country. It`s us vs. them.
And that will become him defining the next person he runs against, the Democratic nominee. No matter who it is, it`s them.
DEL PERCIO: Yes. And they are a socialist.
MATTHEWS: I disagree.
Look, I have talked to Warren, Elizabeth Warren, the senator, and she made it very clear to me like a year-and-a-half ago. Two points, she made with me: One, I am not a socialist. I believe in the capitalist system. It needs to be refined, and people need to be protected. And, two, I am a Democrat. I am not a socialist.
She wants that to be very clear. In partisan and ideological terms, she is not against the market. She believes in the market.
DEL PERCIO: But when did the truth ever get in the way with Donald Trump?
That has -- I mean, that`s a reality. And I don`t disagree with Elizabeth Warren`s characteristic of how she`s running. I`m just saying, I think that`s what Donald Trump is going to try and do, because it`s the only -- it`s the most divisive thing he can do.
MATTHEWS: Does Joe -- does Joe Biden look like a socialist to you?
DEL PERCIO: Of course not, but he`s going to -- Donald Trump is going to set the narrative as much as he can and take down whoever he can with those words, until he has an actual opponent to run against.
MATTHEWS: Could be.
Let me go to Jill.
You were there last night. How did it smell or look different than four years -- three years ago?
JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: You know, I have been now to dozens and dozens of the president`s rallies starting in 2015.
And if you had put me back in time and plopped me into that arena, I would have no idea what year it was. It was the exact same playbook all over again.
The Trump campaign really had an opportunity last night. They have hyped this launch campaign, despite the fact he`s been running now for three-and- a-half or two-and-a-half years. And they could have really done something different. They could have hired a new speechwriter. They could have had some balloons. They could have had some new messaging.
But, instead, they went back. They pulled back that exact same script, repeating it word for word.
MATTHEWS: But look at the faces of these people. Are these all setups behind, all these smiling faces behind him grinning from ear to ear, men and women? What do you make?
COLVIN: No, the crowd loved it. I mean, Trump was playing to his base here. This is the kind of speech that they love.
The lines about Hillary Clinton had the whole room screaming. There were "Lock her up" chants again. They love this. So many of these people go to...
MATTHEWS: She`s a movable feast, isn`t she, for these people, Hillary?
COLVIN: Absolutely. She is...
MATTHEWS: They never get over the glee they get out of it.
And that`s why Trump continues to do it. This is his way to rev up the base, to get these people excited.
MATTHEWS: OK, fact. I need some news, fact bulletin. Ready?
Is it make America great again, or is it keep America great? Because I think make America was really brilliant, but keep sounds like you already got it made. I`m now defending the status quo.
Bad politics. What do you say?
COLVIN: It was actually funny because they had both banners in the stadium. And the president at one point actually polled the crowd, asking them which version they wanted, because he can`t decide.
COLVIN: He really wants to stay with make America great again.
A question back to you, a political question, Susan.
I think make -- make is a much better word then keep. Keep is a terrible word. Make is a great word. If he admits -- if he says we have gotten to the promised land, this is what I said I was going to do for you, now give me credit for it, that never works politically.
He`s got to say, I`m going to keep trying to beat the deep state and the bad guys.
DEL PERCIO: Absolutely, Chris.
And not only that. He really has not achieved anything that he set out to do from when he`s been elected or since he`s become -- he was sworn in.
He got a tax plan through, but he had a Republican House and Senate. He couldn`t do anything on immigration. He couldn`t get Mexico to build the wall. And he did absolutely nothing on health care. So he hasn`t delivered a lot.
So I guess he can still say, I`m still trying.
MATTHEWS: Well, according to "The Washington Post" fact-checker, President Trump`s speech last night was littered with the same false or misleading claims he has so often repeated as president.
Here are just three of the 18 unfounded, false or exaggerated claims the president made and "The Washington Post" has debunked. Here they go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We passed VA Choice, VA Choice for the veterans. They have been trying to get that passed also for about 44 years.
We will always protect patients with preexisting conditions.
We stared down the unholy alliance of lobbyists and donors and special interests who made a living bleeding our country dry. That`s what we have done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the Veterans Choice program he mentioned, which President Trump took credit for, was sponsored by the late Senator John McCain and signed into law by President Barack Obama.
On health care, the Trump administration is pushing to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, including its protections for people with preexisting conditions. So he wants to get rid of that protection, not protect it.
And President Trump, who says he`s draining the swamp -- look at this -- has filled his Cabinet and he keeps filling it with former -- former lobbyists. He`s got four of them now in the Cabinet, lobbyists. A Republican mega-donor is in there and a former hedge fund executive.
I don`t know, Susan, but maybe it`s impossible to put together a clean-as- a-whistle Cabinet, but he looks like he`s going back to the people from the Daddy Warbucks types, the kind of people that make their lives selling war equipment, as his defense secretaries.
DEL PERCIO: Oh, yes.
And he happens to like now that most of them are acting in those positions, because he feels that he can hold it over their heads. I don`t know. He really -- he said only the best. And I think we really have seen just the bottom of the barrel, frankly.
MATTHEWS: Yes, Manafort was one of his first choices. There`s cleaning the swamp.
DEL PERCIO: I will say one thing. Mattis -- Mattis was a really good choice. So was Tillerson.
DEL PERCIO: So I`ll give him that.
He`s better off in helping people get better prison assignments than picking people as his Cabinet.
MATTHEWS: He` much better at that these days.
Jill, thank you. You get the greatest assignments. You get to go these crazy things. Anyway, thank you, Jill Colvin of the Associated Press.
Susan Del Percio, thank you.
Still ahead, who was the president`s ear -- who`s got his ear when it comes to Iran? Who`s pushing? Who`s the hawk? Who`s the dove? Well, he`s got hawks like Bolton, Pompeo -- Pompeo, whatever it is -- and Senator Tom Cotton. I call him Bates Motel, for obvious reasons.
And the other, the dove, I guess, is FOX News hosts comparing him -- well, the rhetoric -- to what led us into a misbegotten war in Iraq. He`s got one person in his ear saying, don`t go to war again. You were against stupid wars.
So how`s this end? That`s coming next on HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, today, we are hearing President Trump is telling his team to slow down the drumbeat of war with Iran. That`s good news.
The Daily Beast is reporting tonight that President Trump has privately pushed his representatives, his surrogates, if you will, to walk back their tough talk on Iran and reiterate that this administration is not aiming to go to war with Iran.
President Trump is reportedly getting conflicting advice, by the way, on Iran, which complicates everything. According to Politico, Republican Senator Tom Cotton, a real hawk from Kansas -- or Arkansas, rather -- has been speaking with the president, advocating for airstrikes against Iran, in other words, acts of war.
Here we go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): Well, Iran for 40 years has engaged in this kind of attacks, going back to the 1980s. In fact, Ronald Reagan had to re-flag a lot of vessels going through the Persian Gulf and ultimately take military action against Iran in 1988.
These unprovoked attacks on commercial shipping warrant a retaliatory military strike.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: On the other side of the issue, the other side, The Daily Beast reports that Tucker Carlson of FOX News is privately advising the president not to do those airstrikes against Iran.
It remains an open question, of course, what the president`s Iran strategy actually is personally. What`s he think?
In an interview with "TIME," "TIME" magazine, President Trump downplayed the recent attacks on two foreign oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman as very minor.
But the Pentagon announced this week that it would be sending another 1,000 troops to the region. So, what`s the message?
For more, I`m joined by Elise Jordan, former State Department and National Security Council aide under President George W. Bush.
Thank you, Elise.
And, Nayyera, a former -- Nayyera Haq, of course, former State Department senior adviser under President Barack Obama.
Nayyera, what do you read here? I mean, Tucker Carlson is sort of a maverick in many ways. On this side, he`s taking the cautious, don`t go to war position, which is politically astute, I think.
On the other side, this guy, I don`t know what -- I don`t know whether he`s a maniac. I really don`t know this guy Cotton, but he has been a hawk from day one.
NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, it certainly doesn`t make any sense in terms of a cohesive Republican strategy or position on this, particularly when you have John Bolton, who is a national security adviser, one of the oldest war hawks, architect of the Iraq War, also arguing for regime change.
This indicates that Donald Trump himself does not have an ideology about foreign policy, writ large, and Iran in particular. So he can be persuaded by people in his party, whether it`s the press and the crowds and the base, who are essentially isolationists and don`t want to see another war, or people like John Bolton and Secretary Pompeo, who are heavily influenced by the ideas of regime change, and Israeli and Saudi influences of wanting the United States to do their dirty work in the region.
MATTHEWS: Let me -- Elise, is he -- first of all, I don`t know anybody reasonable that wants to go to war with Iran. It`s a real country. It wasn`t created by Winston Churchill. It`s Persia. It`s a real serious country, which Israel used to be friendly with under the shah.
But they have got a modern air force. They have got a modern society in many ways. Of course, the ayatollahs are there. But underneath that is a real society that`s sort of, by Western standards, pretty damn tough in terms of war.
And yet this guy brings in John Bolton, who wants to go to war with Iran since 1998, with the Iraqi -- way back then, he`s been pushing for regime change with these countries.
Why did he bring in Bolton? Why is he listening to Tom Cotton, if he`s -- if he`s -- has learned anything?
ELISE JORDAN, "TIME": Here`s my concern, Chris.
In theory, Donald Trump talks like he doesn`t want regime change, like he wants to not have as much intervention around the world. But then, in practice, he can be very quickly manipulated to take one-off actions.
JORDAN: And he essentially has a transactional foreign policy that is impulsive, and it is not reliant at all on our allies.
And you look at how this tension is brewing now, and all it`s doing is even pulling us further away from our European allies that we entered into the JCPOA with, and driving a wedge, as the situation that the Trump administration has -- it`s not -- I`m not, by any means, saying that what Iran is doing is anything but absolutely terrible, but it`s par for the course with their behavior.
And they certainly have made it far worse by escalating their actions with the sanctions and by getting out of the nuclear agreement.
MATTHEWS: Well, Nayyera, you`re -- and Elise, of course, as well.
Trump, back in his wise guy days, before he was a little more serious as president, he would just say things like he thought. He`d say, W., George W. Bush, he said he may not be the worst president in history, but he was the stupidest. And he was talking about Iraq.
So he thought it was the stupidest thing in the world to go into Iraq. And here he is putting Bolton in there. My question, is he afraid the last couple days -- and the reason he might be listening to Tucker Carlson, who is just sort of a general commentator, maybe common sense says, be careful. You might get talked into a war. You might talk the Iranians into a war, and, all of a sudden, there`s a war.
HAQ: Well, I think it`s realizing that the United States has always been on a knife`s edge when it comes to Iran and the relationship, that there is far more to this relationship and the diplomats involved and the military maneuverings in the region than there has been with the tit for tat verbally with North Korea.
So he`s starting to see and probably hearing it from military advisers, probably hearing it from other folks in the national security community, about the gravity of this, that words genuinely matter in this situation.
There`s three reasons that his administration has stated in the past, under Mattis and under the former Secretary Tillerson, about why you would go to war with Iran, either its nuke -- to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon, regime change, or an attack on U.S. assets.
Neither one of those three has really happened now. But the first two, Iran has threatened now, because of the bellicose words of Donald Trump, to start ramping up its nuclear program. So that could be a reason why Donald Trump would instigate strikes. And also, of course, John Bolton has always advocated for regime change.
This tanker issue is key, particularly because it references back to what happened in Reagan -- and Reagan`s involvement. But the tankers that were attacked were not U.S. So it`s part of the broader oil strategy, but it`s important to remember that no U.S. assets have been attacked at this point.
MATTHEWS: I think if he ran as Dr. Strangelove, the way that this guy Tom Cotton talks -- and he does talk like Dr. Strangelove -- that he wouldn`t have been elected.
Anyway, he said no more stupid wars. And, by the way, he also said infrastructure, I`m going to rebuild America.
Neither are now credible.
Anyway, thank you, Elise Jordan. Thank you, Nayyera Haq.
Up next: What do Democratic voters really want in a candidate? Do they want a fighter, somebody out there with their fists up, or do they want to compromiser? Joe Biden`s pushing for a return to civil compromise and bipartisanship.
Other candidates, in fact, a lot of the other candidates, say it`s time, well, more than past time, to fight fire with fire. Which message has the momentum, the big mo`, going into next week`s debate?
HARDBALL back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Now, just one week if you can believe it from the first Democratic presidential debates of 2020. But as Democratic voters evaluate each of the candidates next week, an increasing divide has emerged. Among them, over how much the next Democratic president should work with Republicans.
That divide was on display earlier this week at the Poor People`s Campaign Forum here in Washington, as Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden discuss the Republican Senate led by Mitch McConnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot let him block things the way he did during the Obama administration. I have been there when it was one Senate rules when President Obama was president and now it`s a different set of rules. Now that they`ve got Trump in the White House, we can`t do that as Democrats. We have to be willing to get in this fight.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joy, I know you`re one of the ones who think it`s naive to think we have to work together. The fact of the matter is if we can`t get a consensus, nothing happens except the abuse of power by the executive, zero.
You got to make it clear to Republicans that you understand on some things, there is a rationale for compromise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Warren has said she will find places to work with Republicans, while Biden has repeatedly referenced his time in the Senate, touting the value of civility and bipartisanship in getting things done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: People are saying, you know, Biden just doesn`t get it. He can`t work with Republicans anymore, that`s not the way it works anymore. Well, folks, I`m going to say something outrageous, I know how to make government work.
I`m not talking about going back to the past. I`m talking about avoiding a terrible future if we do not, if we do not figure out how to make this work. The Republicans are my opponents, they`re not my enemies.
I just think we have to be a lot more civil in the way we engage one another.
You know, look, I got to the senate, there was even more divided on issues than it is today. And, you know, I got there, they`re all the odd segregationists were there for horse sake. After the fight was over, then you moved on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, last night, Biden again talked about his history of building consensus, recalling his work with segregationist Democrats James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia.
At a fundraiser in New York, Biden said, I was in a caucus with James Eastland. He never called me "boy", he always called me son.
With respect to Talmadge, Biden said, he was one of the meanest guys I ever know. He added, well, guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn`t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished.
But today, you look at the other side, you`re the enemy. Not the opposition -- the enemy. We don`t talk to each other anymore.
But Biden`s contrasting his time in the Senate with the current political landscape highlighted the reality of today`s Democratic Party, and generating some fierce rebuttals from his Democratic opponents. And that`s coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To coddle the reputations of segregationists, of people who if they had their way, I would literally not be standing here as a member of the United States Senate, is I think it`s just -- it`s misinformed and it`s wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Democratic presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, of course, responding to senator -- or, actually, Joe Biden is a -- former Senator Biden`s comments on working with two segregationist senators as an example of the civility in the Senate way back in the 1970s when he got there.
Biden`s comments have been condemned by several of his opponents.
In a statement, Senator Cory Booker said: Vice President Biden`s relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America safer and more inclusive place for black people and for everyone. And, frankly, I`m disappointed that he hasn`t issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for so many Americans. He should.
That`s Cory Booker.
Senator Elizabeth Warren told reporters: I`m not here to criticize other Democrats, but it`s never okay to celebrate segregationists. Never.
Celebrate. Is that what Biden did?
But perhaps the toughest response came from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who`s getting about a half a point in this thing.
It`s 2019 and Joe Biden is longing for the good old days of civility typified by James Eastland. Eastland thought by multi-racial families should be illegal.
Well, the mayor of New York added: It`s past time for apologies or evolution from Joe Biden. He repeatedly demonstrates that he is out of step with the values of the modern Democratic Party.
For more on this, I am joined by Joel Payne, a frequent guest here, former deputy press secretary for Senator Harry Reid and a Democratic strategist, and Kristen Hawn, former communications director for blue dog Democrats, also Democratic strategist.
So this looks like it was a long time coming and here it has. Joe Biden, the guy that got along with the people who used to run the Democratic Party in the Senate when I first came in, they were all Southern segregationists. Even the food was all Southern. You had to dig up, not kiss up but put up with guys like Eastland and Talmadge.
Remember the guy who said I took the money in my rain coat.
KRISTEN HAWN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes.
JOEL PAYNE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Strom Thurmond.
MATTHEWS: Strom Thurmond.
How do we deal with the modern Democratic Party where there`s no more segregationists? Now we have modern people of color, young people that don`t know anything about that past and don`t like it.
PAYNE: So, I think there are reasonable takes here. I think to say he was celebrating segregationist is probably a bit strong. I don`t think that`s what the former vice president was doing.
But I think this reveals what the fear is about Joe Biden that a lot of Democrats had when he started this race, that he has a propensity for gaffes, he has a propensity to not think about what he`s saying, and he`s out of step with the modern Democratic Party.
Those things are true. It does not mean he can`t be the nominee, it just means that he has a very, very uphill battle because of the things that he`s fighting against. The inertia of Joe Biden, the guy of 1975 running in 2019.
MATTHEWS: It`s a long time ago, but that`s the trouble of being old. He`s defending a time most voters don`t remember and don`t want to remember.
HAWN: He`s defending a long record. I don`t know that I totally agree that he doesn`t fit in with the modern Democratic Party. He already doesn`t look like a lot of the candidates that are running, but I`m using the midterms as an example. I mean, you look back and a lot of states we have to win, the primary states we have to win, those Rust Belt states. We won those because the right candidates came through.
MATTHEWS: What were they?
HAWN: They were your Abigail Spanbergers, they were your Mikie Sherrills, they were --
HAWN: Yes, you`re talking about people that were supported by the far left, but they won their primaries. They won Democratic primaries and then they went on to win the general. If they hadn`t, if they hadn`t won their primaries, we would have lost those seats. So, I think it`s granular then.
MATTHEWS: I`m going to be a little less nice and I really like Joe Biden and I probably -- we`ll see at the ending. I`m worried that he`s like one of the last moderates standing. I wonder who the next moderate, if he gets knocked off, who`s left, because then it will just be left.
But I thought when he said about, no, he never called me boy. For a white guy to say that means nothing. There`s no experience, there`s no history of that.
PAYNE: It`s tone deaf. It`s also, there are so many levels of this. So, there are the obvious comments about talking about segregationists in a very loose way. You`re doing this in a roomful of wealthy donors.
MATTHEWS: White guys.
PAYNE: You`re essentially defending old white bigots to a room of old white donors.
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m not sure all the guys. But, by the way, I know all these people. They`re all liberal Democrats.
PAYNE: I`m just saying. I`m just saying. But that`s essentially what you`re doing and that`s what he has to say.
MATTHEWS: He got a defense out by the end of the day. A series of tweets out tonight. Biden`s senior advisor Symone Sanders blasted the former vice president`s critics, writing: Joe Biden did not praise segregation, that is a disingenuous take. He basically said sometimes in Congress, one has to work with terrible or downright racist folks to get things done and then went on to say when you can`t work with them, work around them.
She added: Let`s be honest here. A person currently sits in the White House who has actually praised white supremacists, refused to acknowledge the innocence of the central park five and talks about criminal justice reform but has yet to allocate a penny to do it in his budget.
What`s this what about -- this is the other thing in politics, if you can`t defend somebody, you say, but what about Trump?
HAWN: What about Trump? And I think that you`ve got a case where you`ve got some people, House, Senate, those running who are activists, right? Then you`ve got Joe Biden who`s a legislator. You`ve got the same thing reflected in the House and Senate.
I think that you have to, at some point, I mean, you`re somewhat an activist running for office but he`s somebody who sees the value in bringing people together.
MATTHEWS: I wanted to do this and am jumping in on your time but I dug up something Teddy Kennedy wrote right as he was dying in his book. Let`s take a look at that. It`s about dealing with people like seggies. By the way, the Senate was filled with those seggies back then, they were awful.
Anyway, one of Biden`s long-time Senate colleagues, the late Senator Ted Kennedy also recalled his experience working with Eastland, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee from, what, `56 to `76 -- `78. By the way, Teddy was on that committee.
In his memoir "True Compass" published shortly after his death, Kennedy wrote: Eastland`s racial views posed a moral problem for me. Civil rights became one of the defining causes of my career. How could I seek guidance or cooperate in any way with a proponent of segregation?
My decision regarding Eastland, in fact my abiding impulse to reach across lines of division in my career took strength from the concluding phrase of Lincoln`s inaugural address, on the eve of the Civil War. I decided to put my faith in the better angels of our nature.
I worked with James Eastland -- in fact, the two of us became friends. Then and always I would work with anyone whose philosophies differed from mine as long as the issue at hand promoted the welfare of the people, and I would continue to await those better angels and to remain confident in ultimate justice.
Teddy had to do it, he did it.
MATTHEWS: He got along with the guy to get the civil rights bill through.
PAYNE: Let`s cut through all this, right? I think that this race, the Biden race and Biden/Trump, it`s about do you think Donald Trump broke Washington or do you think Washington existing created Donald Trump? In other words, what came first, the chicken or the egg?
MATTHEWS: What do you think?
PAYNE: I think Washington was broken by Mitch McConnell and it allowed for someone like Donald Trump --
MATTHEWS: Let`s come back and fight about that. That`s a good case. Have you back too, Kristen --
MATTHEWS: -- because these fights are going to end up somewhere.
Thank you, Joel Payne. Thank you, Kristen Hawn.
Up next, what I call the Baskin Robbins phrase of this 2020 process. You know, you all know what I mean in a minute.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Next week, we`re hosting the first debate of the 2020 race. A poll, by the way, from Suffolk University and "USA Today" shows four out of five Democratic voters plan to watch the debate next week.
The poll shows, by the way, that seven candidates right now are gaining more than 1 percent support. They are Biden at 30 percent, Bernie Sanders at 15 percent, Elizabeth Warren at 10:00, Buttigieg at 9 percent, Harris at 8 percent, O`Rourke at 2 percent, Booker at 2 percent.
The other 13 who qualified for the debates next week had less than 1 percent. Again, it`s early.
And this isn`t about picking someone to be president yet, it`s deciding to give someone a look, going for a taste of them, if you will. And for some voters it will be like going into Baskin Robbins and try a new flavor. I think I`ll try Buttigieg. I tried Beto last week. Maybe I`m getting a little tired of Bernie.
It really is like that. There`s going to be winners next week, by the way, and candidates who wish it never happened.
This is HARDBALL for now.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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