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Pelosi insists she will not pursue impeachment. TRANSCRIPT: 6/20/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Cynthia Alksne; David Jolly, Zerlina Maxwell, Nicholas Kristof, KimOlson

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Here I just got from Mark Warner.  He says, I was curious about these press reports.  Anything that involves pilot safety is important to me.  So this is a very real thing happening on the Hill.  I wanted to get that UFO update in for you.

That`s The Beat.  HARDBALL starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Hope says nope.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington with breaking news.  The House Judiciary Committee has just released the official transcript from Hope Hicks` closed-door testimony yesterday.  Here it is, a lot of paper.  Not sure what`s in there.  The close campaign aide to President Trump appeared before the committee for over seven hours yesterday, much of that time being blocked by White House lawyers from answering any questions.  For example, Hicks wouldn`t even say whether she had been truthful in her testimony to Robert Mueller.

Also new tonight, we`ve got a report that former Vice President Joe Biden phoned Cory Book last night in an attempt to smooth things over in their conflict over Biden`s comments about working with old-time segregationists.

First up, tonight`s breaking news on Hope Hicks from the House Judiciary Committee.  According to that committee, four Trump administration lawyers were present during the hearing yesterday and they intervened on 155 occasions to stop Hicks from answering questions.  The word appearing most prominently and repeatedly in the transcript I have here from yesterday is objection, the word, objection.

Hicks could, however, speak about the campaign.  Among other things, Hicks said she supported Trump`s use of illegally hacked emails to attack Hillary Clinton in 2016 defending it as, quote, publicly available information to draw a contrast between the candidates.  Those were her words.

When asked whether she`d accept foreign dirt again today, she said she would not.  She said she would report it to the FBI, if I thought it was legitimate enough to have our law enforcement dedicate their time to it.

Additionally, Hicks said she was very surprised to learn that there were over 100 contacts between the Trump campaign and people connected to the Russian government.  But Hicks was repeatedly blocked from discussing the President`s obstructive behavior, which was in the Special Counsel`s report.

She also did not address Michael Flynn`s resignation, Jeff Session`s recusal, James Comey`s firing or the President`s attempt to remove Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel himself.

I`m joined by Cynthia Alksne, former federal prosecutor, Mike Memoli, NBC News Correspondent, David Jolly, former republican congressman from Florida.  Thank you all.

Cynthia, I have to start with you.  What is this thing, this word objection?  This is loaded, all this wasted paper, a lot of this paper simply has the word objection on it.

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Right.  Another half of it has the word absolute immunity, which is not a thing.  The White House is saying no senior official has to comply -- can be compelled to testify about what`s happened in the White House.  It is not a legal -- legally supported -- supportable argument.  And the only time it`s come up in court, it was shot down.

What the -- the good news about absolute immunity is because it`s a constitutional question, it can be handled rather summarily by the courts.  It can be done quickly.  The bad news is that after if comes back, she`ll just claim executive privilege.  We`re going nowhere with this.  She`s not going to give any more information.

MATTHEWS:  Even if you had her under subpoena, even if you brought her in and said -- she said, I`ll answer your questions, and she says, I don`t remember that.  I don`t remember that.  What was --

ALKSNE:  There`s a lot of I don`t recalls.  It`s Trump`s spin.  Did you know that this woman -- they didn`t even swear her in before she testified.  This is ridiculous waste.  I mean, look, you and I have all this paper.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  In a real world where real people had honest conversations, which we`re not in, what I always thought of her as a confidant of the President, somebody that he implicitly trusts not to rat him out, that he can say anything and I can`t stand that guy or I`m BSsing (ph) here, you know, I`m feeling bad, I mean, like he would share everything with her, right?  She knows it all about the Russians, about Roger -- what`s his name, all these people.

MIKE MEMOLI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  And one of the things -- the democrats wanted this to be the moment where they bring the Mueller report alive.  Well, they didn`t do it here in one part because this is all happening behind closed doors, first of all.

The other thing we learned --

MATTHEWS:  Just to say it, she knows it all, right?

MEMOLI:  She does.  And that`s one thing that comes through very clearly in this report is she was as close, if not, the closest confidante in the entire operation.  She said she was the only press staffer for a long time.  She defends her invocation of white lies, which she told the House Intelligence Committee last year.

She admits to the committee here that she was being asked to draft statements that she did not even bother to ask then-candidate, now, President Trump whether they were true or not.  She was doing so including with Karen McDougal, the hush money payments.

So democrats wanted to --

MATTHEWS:  Yes, just to make that point, I read the transcript.  She said he had -- it had nothing to do with her.  Did he ever asked anything to do with her?  No.

MEMOLI:  I have no recollection.

MATTHEWS:  She just did that.  The right answer was, I don`t have anything to do with this porn star or not, this model.

MEMOLI:  What`s interesting though in the same token is the democrats also asked her about her relationship with the President now.  She said she`s only talked to him five to ten times since she left the White House.  The other part which was interesting, they asked her, have you read the Mueller report?  She says, no, I lived the Mueller report.

MATTHEWS:  She`s laughing at this thing?

MEMOLI:  She is, at times, dismissive to the members of the committee as well.  She accuses them of not using those words but essentially to borrow the President`s phrase --

MATTHEWS:  Dave Jolly, politically, forget the law because, obviously, the President ignores the law, he has taught his people how to behave like him.

FMR. REP. DAVID JOLLY (R-FL):  Yes, sure.

MATTHEWS:  You live in another world, laugh at the fact you can lie, laugh at the fact you can deny reality, because, look, what did reality ever do for this president.  Go ahead.

JOLLY:  Which is why, politically, House Democrats need to make a decision do they go with the information they have or not?  Because I think if they try to extrapolate more information, we`re going to see a lot of episodes like this.

Look, what she did is provide kind of a look in the mirror for Trump`s personality and for everybody around him.  What I found most ironic, most intriguing, Chris, is this.  She acknowledged that -- she said, look, we didn`t have advanced notice of the WikiLeaks and/or Russia collusion but we were ready.  We had a messaging campaign when the WikiLeaks release dropped.  We wanted to be ready to seize on that type of interference, if you will.

And then she`s asked, well, during the transition, did you speak with the President about how to message about Russian interference?  And she said, oh, yes.  We decided to blame the intel agencies because the President was concerned that if it looked like we were seizing on these moments, it would undermine the legitimacy of his election.

This Hope Hicks, as much as she said objection or her lawyers wouldn`t let her testify, the reality is we got a perfect glimpse into the soul of this administration, which is they took whatever help they could get and then they`re just going to ignore it and say, hey, nobody can touch us though.  Don`t worry about it.

MATTHEWS:  So you raised a question, they didn`t even think to swear her in.  I was noticing the courtesy, the extreme courtesy they showed her.  Sheila Jackson Lee, who is a pretty tough democrat, said, are the cameras bothering you?  Let`s get the cameras out if they`re bothering you.  I mean, they seem like they were incredibly nice to her.

ALKSNE:  Well, I mean, they were nice to her.  They let her testify privately.


ALKSNE:  There`s no reason why they did that, especially if the goal is we`re going to try to bring this to life.  She`s privately.  She`s not sworn.  Half of -- half the lawyers in Washington, D.C. represented her, they were all in the room.  I mean --

MATTHEWS:  Well, this is the dramatic point, Mike.  What the democrats who were pushing for some action, the ones that are still hopeful they can actually get 218 in the House for impeachment and a shot at a conviction in this Senate argue what`s missing from the Mueller testimony is the live person doing it.  But then, you know, it sounds like if they`re going to get McGahn there to ever testify, the President`s lawyer, who did hear the President say fire Mueller, he knows what the obstruction sounded like and was, then don`t do it in back rooms too.  And we`ll get a pile of paper the next day and once again lost drama.

MEMOLI:  They were differential to Hope Hicks because they needed to get somebody in.  They`re five months now, almost in their sixth month in the majority and they haven`t been able to get anything.  There`s a real pressure building on Chairman Nadler, on Speaker Pelosi, of course, as well.

My understanding, my reporting is that they do still have some hope of bringing Mueller in.  They`re insisting on one public hour of testimony.  They want the public to hear him in his own words.  He`s still resisting.  They may move on to some of his deputies.

ALKSNE:  That`s what they should do.  They should get Weissman and Jeannie Rhee and those people in.  There`s -- whatever the reason why --

MATTHEWS:  But if you have to subpoena, do you think they`ll be dramatic?  If you are forced to commit and be -- you know, do --

ALKSNE:  These are trial lawyers.  They know how to tell the story.  Come on.

MATTHEWS:  They don`t want to tell it.

ALKSNE:  You don`t know that.  You don`t -- I mean, I don`t know what --

MATTHEWS:  Well, we know Mueller doesn`t want to come in.

ALKSNE:  Mueller doesn`t want to come in or whatever the reason is.  I`m a huge Mueller fan, you know, this to Mueller.  Just get somebody else.  And there are other trial lawyers there who are perfectly capable of doing it, and let`s get them in.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  Among the episodes that Hicks did not address in her testimony yesterday was the misleading statement used to cover up the Trump Tower meeting with Russians during the campaign, that infamous meeting on the plane.  Hicks was aboard Air Force One with the President on that day that the news first broke in July of 2017 when he was president and she helped him craft the cover story on behalf of his son.

According to the Mueller report, Trump rejected an initial draft of the statement because he said, it said too much about the offer of Russian dirt on Clinton.  Instead the President confected this.  He told Hicks to say, only that Trump Jr., Donald Jr., took a brief meeting and it was about Russian adoption.  Well, was it about Russian adoption?

ALKSNE:  No, it wasn`t about Russian adoption.

MATTHEWS:  While in the sky, he was coming in with dirt that she was offering the campaign on Hillary?

ALKSNE:  That`s right.  And the President had just met hours before with Putin and I`m sure when the information finally comes out that Putin helped feed him that story.  And that`s what they did and they`ve gotten away with it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Hicks was also asked if she thought Trump was joking in his ABC News interview when he said he`d accept dirt on a political opponent from a foreign power.  Hicks said, I don`t think that was a joke based on what I saw.  So what do you make of that, David?  It sounds like, again, she gave us a whisper of truth there.

JOLLY:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  It was no joke?

JOLLY:  No, it wasn`t.  I think we should believe Donald Trump when he says he would accept interference.  He did.  The only reason he cleaned it up the next day was because of the fallout of it.

I think, you know, Chris, though to some of your earlier questions, what we also see in Hope Hicks is that if House Democrats are hoping for a smoking gun by bringing anybody in to testify, they`re not going to get it.  These are going to be imperfect witnesses, right?

What she said about WikiLeaks, we didn`t coordinate ahead of time but we were ready to react.  On Lewandowski, she was asked, were you concerned that Donald Trump asked Lewandowski to have Sessions unrecuse himself?  She said, I wouldn`t say, concerned, but maybe it was odd.  What she`s -- what the House Democrats will get from any witness is imperfect testimony.

And so they actually have to be careful.  If they think they`re going to draw this out in the public eye, that strategy could very well backfire.  I still would make the case, stay within the four corners of the Mueller report.  Go with what you have.  If it means impeachment or censure, do it, if not, fine.  But I`m not sure they get much traction by bringing more people like Hope Hicks forward.

MATTHEWS:  And I thought she was very well prepared for this, Cynthia.  You`re used to clients being prepared.  She seemed like she was going to defend Trump under the law as much as she get under this immunity BS they`ve got.  But when it came to her own future, which is long, she`s very young and she`s a professional, she was made -- she was very clear to say, I know they shouldn`t have done it.

ALKSNE:  Right, exactly.

MATTHEWS:  In the hindsight that we have now, they shouldn`t have taken money or support, information, basically wealth from a foreign power.

ALKSNE:  Right, she covered herself that way.  She covered herself on some of the gray areas saying, I just don`t remember, I don`t recall.  It`s like reading an old transcript of an Oliver North testimony.

MATTHEWS:  Protecting herself.

Meanwhile, two democratic members of the House have joined the growing list of lawmakers calling for an impeachment inquiry.  Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, she`s from Lake Shore Drive, of course, in Chicago, followed her Illinois colleague, Congressman Sean Casten, in urging the House of Representatives to begin hearings.  Now, they`re part of that group.  It`s a total of 72 House members have pushed for public support for impeachment.

However, their announcements came just as Speaker Nancy Pelosi takes an even stronger stand against impeachment.  Yesterday, Pelosi said she feels no pressure to pursue it and won`t do so unless she has the votes to convict Trump in the Senate, that means 2/3 in the Senate or she`s not going.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  It can`t be the democrats impeach in the House, the Senate, in his view, exonerate, and the republicans exonerate in the Senate.  This president must be held accountable.  So I feel no pressure from my members to do anything and I have no pressure on them to do anything.


MATTHEWS:  Well, Pelosi also ruled out a vote to censure the President dismissing the possibility as an ineffective half measure.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If you could not convict in the Senate and you couldn`t actually impeach, that the House could, for history`s sake, pass a censure resolution that would force the republicans in the Senate to say something about the President`s conduct.  Is this something that you`re considering?

PELOSI:  No.  I think censure is just a way out.  If you`re going to go, you`ve got to go.  In other words, if the goods are there, you must impeach.


MATTHEWS:  Jolly, let`s talk about this because I thought you wanted the truth, at least as I know the truth.  You know in the House when they need 218 for a passage in either party and they know it`s a tough vote, like it`s a (INAUDIBLE).  Nobody wants to vote for a (INAUDIBLE).

So you haul a bunch of 20 or 30 people there and you hold them on the floor of the House on your side of the aisle, and you hold them there as you need them.  And you only make the ones you need votes, so you don`t waste any -- you don`t hurt anybody, you don`t have to hurt them at home.

It looks to me like Pelosi is doing something in football, I think we call it prevent defense.  We just let a couple a day released from the corral.  Okay, you can be for impeachment, Schakowsky.  You`re from a liberal district on the Lake Shore.  I`m not going to hurt you with your well- educated peeps.

But it`s not going to make any difference because she can`t afford because it`s June, it`s going to be July in a couple of weeks.  She`s not going to do impeachment.  She has decided that months ago and yet she keeps talking about timing and all that.  I thought today was the clearest statement she`s made, we`re not doing it ever, ever.

JOLLY:  Yes.  Look, Chris, she`s running out the clock.  It`s six weeks until August recess.  They`ll come back to a debt limit debate and keeping the government open.  They`ll be looking at the holidays.  She`s dragging her feet because she does want to run out the clock.

The irony here is, you know, originally, Nancy Pelosi has said, we`re not going to move until the American people want us to, until we`ve convinced the American people there`s sufficient evidence.  But the reality is she has a lot rank and file members where the American people are saying to Nancy Pelosi, through their representatives, please move on this.

I believe Nancy Pelosi when she says she feels no pressure from her rank and file members because she`s the Speaker.  She`s the queen.  They`re not going to put pressure on her.  I think the pressure will come from democratic voters but also, Chris, maybe as early as next week, 20 presidential candidates on national T.V. in primetime, how do they answer the impeachment question?  And if the Presidential candidates on the democratic side of the aisle really start talking about impeachment, that`s going to put the spotlight back on Speaker Pelosi.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I`ll make the gentleman`s bet I make with you, with every democrat I have on this show, I`ll bet you they don`t do it.  It`s not going to happen.  I think this is kicking the can down the road, like they do on immigration, like they do on every issue.

This Congress doesn`t decide things.  They kick it down the road.  They don`t do anything.  They shouldn`t be called lawmakers because they don`t pass the law.  They haven`t passed a law since the Voting Rights Act in `65.  They don`t do stuff.  Please all pay attention.  They don`t do it.

Cynthia Alksne, thank you.  Mike Memoli, it`s all true.  David, I hate to break your heart, but you`re not there anymore.  Anyway, David, thank you for joining.  You`re here.

Coming up, smoothing things over?  We`ve got new reporting tonight about a phone call between Joe Biden and Cory Booker about -- well, about another democrat about what they`ve been criticizing Biden over for his remarks about working too warmly, I guess the phrase is, with old-time segis (ph).

Plus, just days after President Trump blamed Iran for attacks on shipping tankers, a U.S. drone is shot down by Iranians.  Can Trump de-escalate this situation or has it pushed into the point of no return?

By the way, this drone, $100 million drone.  It`s really an airplane.

Plus, a democratic candidate`s campaign launch is a viral sensation.  Take a look at this.


RETIRED COL. KIM OLSON, AIR FORCE:  I was sent to the frontlines of Iraq to rebuild.  I got to tell you, it was a cluster.  There was no reconstruction plan, no political foresight.  Our government couldn`t even pay the security detail protecting Americans.


MATTHEWS:  Well, retired Colonel Kim Olson, you saw it there, walking there, trying to flip a Texas congressional district to the democrat side.  She`s going to join us live tonight.  Much more ahead.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Actually, Joe Biden is facing sharp criticism even today from his Democratic rivals after referring to the civility of powerful segregationist senators back in the `70s. 

Biden`s remarks, made at a fund-raiser in New York on Tuesday night, gave Democratic opponents an opening, obviously, to level their fiercest criticism of him so far. 


BILL DE BLASIO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think the bottom line here is, why on earth would a Democrat speak nostalgically of working with a segregationist?

QUESTION:  Should Joe Biden apologize? 

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He`s going to have to make that decision, but let`s be very clear.  The senators that he is speaking of with such adoration are individuals who made and built their reputations on segregation. 

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don`t think that you should be bragging about working on a bipartisan basis with segregationists. 

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  A guy running to be the head of our party, which is a significantly diverse and wondrous party, doesn`t understand or can`t even acknowledge that he made a mistake. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, last night Biden stood by his comments and dismissed criticisms from his rivals, including that senator, Cory Booker, right there, who said the former V.P. should have apologized immediately. 


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I could not have disagreed with Jim Eastland more.  And he was a segregationist. 

I ran for the United States Senate because I disagreed with the views of the segregationists.  There were many of them in the Senate at the time.

What I was talking about was the Voting Rights Act.  I was able to pass the Voting Rights Act while, when I was a young senator, when he was still the chairman.  We voted against him.  And we beat him in the Voting Rights Act. 

QUESTION:  How does it feel that your Democratic rivals are implicitly saying that you have issues talking about race? 

BIDEN:  They know better. 

QUESTION:  Are you going to apologize, like Cory Booker has called for?

BIDEN:  Apologize for what?

QUESTION:  Cory Booker`s called for it.  He`s asking you to apologize.

BIDEN:  Cory should apologize.  He knows better.  There`s not a racist bone in my body.  I have been involved in civil rights my whole career, period, period, period. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, Booker shot back, comparing Biden`s -- Biden`s conduct to that of President Trump. 


BOOKER:  He`s falling back into the defensive crouch that often people say, which is, Cory called me a racist, or I`m not a racist, which is not what I said and not what I`m calling him. 

And this is the problem.  He knows better.  And at a time when Donald Trump never apologizes for anything, and starts to create that kind of, I think, toxic sentiment that you never apologize, never apologize, never apologize, I know Joe Biden.  He`s better than this. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, late today, NBC News confirmed that Biden called Booker after that interview to smooth tensions, but stood by his remarks. 

Meanwhile, several prominent legislators out there have defended Biden, notably, U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest ranking African-American in the House of Representatives, who invoked another infamous segregationist.

Clyburn told Politico: "I worked with Strom Thurmond all my life.  You don`t have to agree with people to work with them."

For more, I`m joined by Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of progressive programming for SiriusXM, and Michael Steele, former RNC chair. 

I guess I will start with Zerlina about this. 

What do you want to be said now?  Here it is, Thursday night.  This thing started two nights ago.  Has this got legs?  I think it has for the weekend.  But what should be done now by the Democrats to move somewhere with this positively, if that`s possible? 

ZERLINA MAXWELL, SIRIUSXM RADIO:  Look, I think that this is a moment where the other Democrats that are not Joe Biden saw an opportunity to draw a contrast with Joe Biden. 

I think that there are generational differences with how people see whether or not you should be willing to work with people who literally deny my humanity, or whether or not you should stand up and be an outspoken advocate. 

I think, in this moment, Joe Biden should take a hard look at the impact of his words.  It`s not really the intention, whether he meant to be racist or whether he is racist.  That`s not the question.  No one is claiming that.

What critics like myself are saying is, he was tone-deaf in his remarks, and he should think about the impact of those words on the communities of color that are being directly hurt by Donald Trump`s policies and policies going all the way back to those segregationists. 

So I think it`s a disconnect between where the party is right now and where Joe Biden is.  And he`s going to have to reconcile that.

MATTHEWS:  Michael? 

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  You know, politically, I`m looking at this and I`m laughing, because I`m saying, if this is the fight you want to have now, oh, just wait until this sucker heats up. 

And Trump is going to sit there and ride this horse all the way to victory in 2020. 

OK, so set that aside for a moment.  All of this apologizing for things that, during context, place and time, all of that matters.  Where was the outrage then?  Well, it didn`t -- it wasn`t there, because this was not how a lot of people looked at the politics of the day. 

You know, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  I was there. 

STEELE:  You know a lot.  You know you were on the Hill.  You know a lot of well-regarded Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  I know what it smelled like when I got there in the morning in the `70s, and all the cooking was Southern cooking.  They ran the Congress of the United States, these Southern grandees and seggy.

The guys that voted against the civil rights bill ran everything.  They ran Appropriations.  They ran Armed Services.  They ran Judiciary.  They ran it all. 

STEELE:  So the question becomes today, how does a Joe Biden articulate and have that conversation? 

I don`t think it`s something the country`s overly enamored about or cares that much about at this point in the summer, but it is a lesson in politics for Joe to recognize how they`re going to come at him and how they`re going to make for him account for a time and place that no one else -- I mean, does Barack Obama now take back his eulogy of Senator Byrd, when he said that, you know...

MATTHEWS:  Bobby Byrd, yes. 

STEELE:  Robert Byrd -- that over the arc of his 92 years sort of bent towards justice?  Really? 

STEELE:  The former, you know...

MATTHEWS:  Grand kleagle.

STEELE:  ... grand pooh-bah of the Ku Klux Klan?

MATTHEWS:  I know.

STEELE:  So, this is the slope that Democrats are finding themselves on.  And I think it`s a dangerous one. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s a real debate.

Well, some in Biden`s orbit have reportedly warned the president in the past against -- him against referencing segregationists, and former Senator James Eastland, for example, in particular. 

According to "The Washington Post," one Biden adviser said: "It might move him to pick a different senator, but he`s not someone you can go to and just say, you have been doing this X-many of years, and you can`t do it anymore."

Politico reports: "A campaign source said invoking segregationists has been a point of contention, but there`s only so much we can do.  This is his decision."

I agree with you, Zerlina.  And I know how it sounds, and I do also know that I -- I went back and read -- because I knew about Ted Kennedy as a young senator 10 years before, had to go up there and sit there and drink Scotch in the morning, to the point of getting looped, so this guy would give me your committee assignments, because this guy, seggy, as he was, decided what some committees Ted Kennedy got to sit on. 

And you had to bow down to that guy to get anything, because it was an oligarchy in those days.  Well, your thoughts too.  I mean, you know this from history.  You were young, but you -- this all happened.  You know what happened.  They were running the place. 

Your thoughts? 

MAXWELL:  Yes, I mean, I wasn`t here for it, but, obviously, I have read the books.


MAXWELL:  And I have to say this, though.

I think that, you know, it both shows that Joe Biden has been around a very long time.  So when he was talks about, I was there as when we passed the Voting Rights Act, as a millennial, that`s like, whoa, it reminds me just...

MATTHEWS:  Well, he wasn`t there.  Actually, he`s wrong.  The Voting Rights Act was `65.  He came in, in `73.


MAXWELL:  Right.  He`s talking about the early `70s.


MATTHEWS:  He`s talking about registrations of it, yes.

MAXWELL:  But whenever -- when he`s name-dropping that, that does seem like a very large disconnect between where millennials are on these issues and Joe Biden.

But I think that I`m not laughing, Michael.

STEELE:  I know.

MAXWELL:  I don`t think this is funny. 

I think that the conversation that we`re having actually is serious.  I think that the gaffe that Joe Biden made is minor in its context.  But the larger conversation about race relations in this country, the impact on communities of color, the Trump administration`s policies, like caging children, or, most recently, where he said he doesn`t regret saying the Central Park 5, who were innocent men, should have been executed, those types of things have a real impact in the real world. 

And the Democrats need somebody who can actually stand up and fight back against that.  And claiming that you can compromise with people who deny your humanity is not representative of a strong and vocal advocate.  That is what I am saying. 

No one`s calling Joe Biden a racist.  No one is denying that Joe Biden has worked on these issues.  It`s just saying that he has to understand the time we`re living in.


MATTHEWS:  I`m with you completely.  I understand this.  And I`m going to say at the end of the show Biden better learn how to talk like a 2020 Democrat, not in 1972 Democrat.  He`s got to learn how to talk, because he will be speaking for the Democratic Party, if he`s lucky enough to win the nomination. 

But back to the question of, what would a senator do?  It`s harder for you, a women of color of your age, to imagine, I guess, lucky for us all, but you walk in the United States Senate and they say, here`s the deal.  You want to work on civil rights, you got to get on the Judiciary Committee.  You want to work on immigration, you got to get on the Judiciary Committee.

And the chairman is this old seggy, who sits around looking at oil maps all day, but you got to go into his office at dawn.  What would you have done? 

MAXWELL:  I`m going to tell you a secret, Chris.

As a woman of color in the year 2019, I have to navigate spaces and deal with people who don`t think that I`m equal to them or as smart as them or as capable as them. 

So, people of color, women of color, women, we have to deal with this type of dynamic all the time.  We have to deal with people that don`t agree with us on issues or have abhorrent views to our literal existence and humanity. 

So I`m not saying that you would not eventually come to some sort of compromise and push forward legislation.  What I`m saying, that, in the Democratic primary -- he`s not in office.  He`s not in the Senate.  He`s talking about, back in the day, when he used to have a more civil tone with people who were segregationists.

And that`s the problem.  It`s not the idea of compromise.  It`s the fact that you`re talking about it with such tone-deafness in this moment where it just seems like you`re out of touch. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We will see.  It`s a great debate. 

Thank you, Zerlina, for being a big part of this.

MAXWELL:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  And thank you, Michael Steele.

Up next:  President Trump says, we will soon find out how the U.S. will respond to Iran shooting down a U.S. drone.  This -- look at this thing.  This is not some little thing flying around your backyard.  This is an airplane that isn`t manned.

We`re back after this. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Early this morning, the commander in chief of Iran`s Revolutionary Guard announced that it had shot down a U.S. military drone in Iranian airspace.  U.S. Central Command confirmed the attack, but disputed the location, saying the drone was over international waters. 

Well, the Pentagon release video purportedly showing a trail of smoke after the drone was shot down over the Gulf of Oman.  President Trump offered a stark warning then to Iran. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Iran made a big mistake.  This drone was in international waters, clearly.  We have it all documented.  It`s documented scientifically, not just words.

And they made a very bad mistake.  OK?


QUESTION:  How will you respond?

TRUMP:  You will find out. 

QUESTION:  Are you willing to go to war with Iran?

TRUMP:  You will find out.  You will find out. 


MATTHEWS:  Yet, just moments later, the president suggested that Iran might not have done it intentionally. 


TRUMP:  I have a feeling.  I may be wrong.  And I may be right.  But I`m right a lot. 

I have a feeling that it was a mistake made by somebody that shouldn`t have been doing what they did. 

QUESTION:  Are you saying you think it wasn`t intentional to strike the drone?

TRUMP:  I don`t know.  I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth.  I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.

But we will be able to report back, and you will understand exactly what happened.  But it was a very foolish move.  That, I can tell you. 


MATTHEWS:  Interesting stuff. 

The escalating tensions began, of course, with President Trump`s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the 2015 deal limiting Iran`s nuclear capabilities. 

And late today, President Trump, along with military officials, hosted top congressional leaders, along with the several committee chairmen and ranking members, to brief them on the situation as it stands. 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters he`s worried that the president and this administration may bumble into a war. 

Will both sides walk back from the edge, or have we reached the point of no return?  We should worry.  This is serious. 

That`s coming up next. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Amid heightened tensions between Iran and the United States, National Security Adviser John Bolton announced a trip to the region to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Bolton, according to "The Washington Post" is reportedly dominating Iran policy, keeping a tight rein on information that gets to the president.  That`s pretty scary. 

Moments ago, House Republicans called for a measured response to Iran`s actions. 

"New York Times" columnist Nicholas Kristof warned: We are facing very real risks of a cycle of escalation without good face-saving exit ramps for either Trump or Khamenei.  This could get scarier.

For more, I`m joined by Nicholas Kristof, and Wendy Sherman, former under secretary of state for political affairs and author of "Not for the Faint of Heart".

Nick, thank you. 

This is real, right?  This is not a trumped up wag-the-dog situation by this administration, right? 

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  The risks here are very real.  I mean, you know, we don`t know whether there will be an explosion, but we are essentially on a collision path and there are not a lot of exit ramps.  I mean, there are some, but the basic problem is that we have two bellicose nationalists, each of whom is somewhat reluctant to go on a different path, and there are not a lot of face-saving ways that they can avert it. 

And there`s a real risk of that collision but also simply other than the state, you know, the navy, the U.S. Navy is concerned there are so many ships in the Gulf, so many hot heads around that you can have things go wrong and, you know, every Iranian knows in 1988, the U.S. mistakenly shot down a civilian Iranian airliner with 290 people on board.  You know, both sides can make mistakes and then the escalation -- I`m not sure Americans appreciate just how messy and how dangerous this could be, how much it could engulf the region. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s a real country. 

Madam Secretary, it seems to me that Ronald Reagan, who looks very measured at this point, when Colonel Nicholson was killed over in Berlin that time, he said, I`m not going to war with it.  When the Korean airline was shot down over Russian airspace by that field commander, he said, I`m not going to blame the country for that. 

AMB. WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS:  When pilots were downed in the E3 in China, President Bush in a matter of ten days very quietly, calmly through careful diplomacy got them back safely.  We lost an important ship that had a lot of intelligence on it, but, you know, that was the stakes that were played then.  I think the real concern now is the one that Nick pointed out, which is we are in an escalatory cycle of the hard hard-liners here and the hard hard-liners there, and they are just symbiotic really getting each other to spiral up. 

You know, we all know that sometimes coercive diplomacy is the right thing to do.  But this administration is all about coercion and nothing about diplomacy. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you see the two Janus masks of the president?  I didn`t.  Last comment from him, he says, you know, they made a big mistake but maybe it was an accident.  In other words, getting them off the hook.  Himself off the hook. 

KRISTOF:  Yes.  I mean, frankly I thought that was -- it was welcome that president Trump made that comment and also welcome that the other day, he I think told "Time" that the damage to the tankers was, you know, very minor, that he -- you know, it really does seem that President Trump is aware of the possibilities of things going very wrong, of escalation.

But the -- while he`s aware of it, he`s surrounded by aides, both Bolton and Pompeo, who see Iran through this prism of hostility and seem to want to escalate and I`m not sure that president Trump, you know, is prepared to take a face-saving way.  I think for all of that seeming awareness he has, that things could still go very badly very quickly. 

MATTHEWS:  To that point, Lindsey Graham who spoke to the president today had a warning for Iran. 


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  So here`s what Iran needs to get ready for, severe pain inside their country, that their capabilities pale in comparison to ours.  We`re not going to let them disrupt navigation of the seas, attack our allies and U.S. interests without paying a price.  So if they`re itching for a fight, they`re going to get one. 

REPORTER:  How close are we to doing that?  How close are we to doing that? 

GRAHAM:  We`re a lot closer today than we were yesterday and only God knows what tomorrow brings. 


MATTHEWS:  You know, Wendy, that`s Lindsey playing Charles Laughton in "Advise and Consent."  The old Southern guy wants to fight, it`s a macho thing. 

SHERMAN:  Right, indeed.  There`s a lot of macho thing going on here, between as Nick said, Pompeo and Bolton. 

You know, we are just getting closer and closer and closer to this blowing up.  Iran is not going to sit back, that`s the problem here.  The odd thing here is we`re all counting on the president, Donald Trump, to save us in this situation.  That`s not a place I like to be. 

MATTHEWS:  Fire John Bolton, that`s a great sign we`re not going to war.  Just fire the guy tonight and everybody will relax for a while. 

By the way, Bolton is building up his strength in the NSC.  He`s pushing people out, bringing his people in.  You know, the American Enterprise Institute will be empty by next week. 

Anyway, Nicholas Kristof, thank you.  Ambassador Wendy Sherman, it`s good to have two sober-minded people.  I hope we got one at the White House for an hour or two. 

Anyway, coming up next, my next guest calls herself Colonel Marvel.  With a resume as impressive as hers, you would, too. 

Stay with us.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

After Beto O`Rourke came close to winning in 2018, Democrats are hoping to turn Texas blue in 2020.  One of their top targets is the 24th congressional district currently held by Republican Kenny Marchant, a district that Trump and Beto won. 

Well, this week, one of Marchant`s Democratic challengers, retired Air Force Colonel Kim Olson, released an ad highlighting her military experience.  The ad went viral online.  Let`s watch it. 


KIM OLSON (D-TX), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE:  I was sent to the front lines of Iraq to rebuild.  I`ve got to tell you, it was a cluster.  There was no reconstruction plan, no political foresight.  Our government couldn`t even pay the security detail protecting Americans. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, this morning, Olson tweeted: Colonel Marvel reporting for duty, comparing herself to Captain Marvel, the fictional pilot turned super hero.

Retired Air Force Colonel Kim Olson joins me now. 

I don`t think I`ve ever used the word "cluster" the way you used it so provocatively, but you`ve got the right to do it.  Tell me, what about Trump has edged you into this risky business of running for public office?  What about Trump? 

OLSON:  Well, it`s not just about Trump, Chris.  And thanks for having me on the show. 

It`s for kind of what it represents.  That we have a nation in which those of us that wore the uniform swore an allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I have that same expectation of our commander-in-chief.  And those of us that served in the military to help defend those foundations that make this nation great.  And it`s my belief that this particular president is undermining all those institutions. 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about Texas.  It`s a tough state, proud state, been Republican for a while now.  I can remember, I guess, as recently as `68, it voted for Hubert Humphrey over Nixon.

OLSON:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  But ever since then, it`s been a Southern state.  What can you to move it? 

OLSON:  Well, I think that we showed we can move it in 2018.  And you know, there are lots of warriors on the ground that walked blocks, that registered voters, that got the vote out.  We had record turnout for the first time in almost three decades because we had folks that did the hard work. 

Look, anybody out there can be a warrior.  And you win these little battles a little at a time.  And that`s how you turn states like Texas from red to blue, because the issues we face in this state aren`t blue issues and aren`t red issues.  They`re red, white, and blue issues.  And it takes all of us to get them fixed. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you a moderate, a progressive, or a conservative? 

OLSON:  I`m Kim Olson and I`m an American and I`m from Texas.  And I want to lead in this district.

MATTHEWS:  OK, but when your voting record -- when you get your voting record out there after a day-- a couple of weeks in Congress, people are going to know what you are.  You`re going to vote progressive or vote moderate or conservative.  They`re going to know it. 

OLSON:  They are.  So it depends on what the issues are.  And I vote to represent the constituents, I vote for what`s in the best interest of our nation. 

And again, you`re there to serve.  This isn`t about you.  This is about serving those who put you in office. 

And oh, by the way, those of us that are elected officials ought to work harder than the people that we`re representing, and I`m not sure that`s actually happening these days.  And that`s why I think the video went viral, Chris, is because people are looking for leaders who can be reasonable and represent them and actually speak truth to power.  And stand up when things aren`t right. 

And that`s the kind of woman I`ve done, and I`ve done it in my entire career.  And I`ll do it when I get into Congress. 

MATTHEWS:  When I was growing up in politics, you had to have served in the military.  You had to have some record as a service person to even think about running for national office.  And now we`ve had, starting with Bill Clinton, since the Cold War has been over, but we have all sorts of problems here. 

What is the advantage of someone who`s been in it, who`s been overseas in conflict, in combat?  What`s the advantage? 

OLSON:  Well, I think the first -- just as you were saying earlier in your show.  We`re over here rattling our sabers to take on another country.  And I remember, I was in Iraq the first ten days after we stopped bombing it, trying to rebuild a country with no exit plan at all and no strategic foresight as to what we were going to do with this place. 

And so, having had boots on the ground, and right now, I`ve got skin in the game.  My son is deployed halfway around the world defending this country, wearing a uniform just like I did.  As a matter of fact, working in the same kind of warfare that I did 20 years ago. 

You know, being in endless wars is not what great nations do.  Great nations need to be the peacemakers.  They need to be the role models.  And they need to be the ones that take the world out of constant warfare. 

MATTHEWS:  Good luck.  I can give you all the advice I`ve got.  It won`t make a lot of difference, but do use a lot of radio and meet a lot of people.  TV is very hard to get on, but getting on radio is a lot easier, social media.  There are so many ways to meet people now. 

But, you know, you seem to have got the energy.  And that could be it.  The difference between you and the other guy. 

Thank you so much.  You got the energy and the will. 

OLSON:  Thanks, Chris.  You bet you, sir.  Thanks for having me on, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  I`m glad to have you on, Colonel Jim Olson who knows what she`s talking about. 

Up next, it`s weird, big fish. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  The South Carolina primary is showing its strength this weekend.  Most of the Democratic candidates for president are heading there tomorrow for Congressman Jim Clyburn`s annual fish fry.  This is the first time a minority of their or a majority of them will vote altogether.  Several days before, 20 of them head -- they go head to head in the first debate of the 2020 race here on MSNBC, NBC, and Telemundo. 

What`s important about South Carolina and the picking of the Democratic nominee is that it`s the locale of the first 2020 contest that represents the modern Democratic Party in all its diversity.  More than half of the voters in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary there will be, in fact, African-American. 

These demographics are important.  We all know the historic role that slavery played in expanding South Carolina`s large minority population.  We all should know the role that minorities are going to play in the future of the Democratic Party. 

Why?  Because of Donald Trump`s birtherism and latest statements on the Central Park Five has made the Republican Party a comfortable home for those opposed to African-American aspirations.  This has emphasized the role the Democratic Party might play in advancing those aspirations. 

It explains this past week`s heated Democratic conversation about former Vice President Biden`s words about his past dealings with Democratic senators from the old segregationist south.  It is up to the primary voters as to who the Democrats run in 2020, whether they are young or old, from a minority community, or not. 

The important point, as we`re hearing this week heading into the South Carolina fish fry, is that the voice of the Democratic nominee be that of the Democratic Party of 2020.  Whichever candidate is chosen, they must represent today`s party, which all its freshness of hope, with all its diversity of wisdom and youth, with all of its demands for equal rights, equal treatment, equal respect and equal aspiration for all Americans as we move forward into the new century. 

And that`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.