ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Don`t go anywhere. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: No truce. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. In just a moment, brand- new reporting on efforts by the Department of Justice to convince Robert Mueller to limit his testimony this week. I`ll talk to the Vice Chair of the Judiciary Committee.
First up, president Trump is not stopping his attacks on four minority congresswomen, now with his latest argument against the squad. After he spent last week trying to reverse the fallout from his racist Tweet the weekend before, attacking the quartet, today, President Trump went on offense again. In a Tweet this morning, the President argued the squad is a very racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced and not very smart, adding, they are so bad for our country.
Well, Trump doubled down on that argument at the White House this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think they`re very bad for our country. I really think they must hate our country.
The congresswomen, what they`ve said about Israel, what they`ve said about our country, when they talk about disgusting people, when they talk the way they talk, when the one mentioned that brown people should speak for brown people and Muslim people should speak for Muslim people, and you hear all this, it`s not what our country is all about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But even before the President fired off his latest attack, one of the four congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, blasted the President at the NAACP Convention in Detroit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): Yes, I`m not going nowhere, not until I impeach this president.
And it`s beyond just the four of us. The squad is all of you. And I can tell you, there`s -- you are all the squad. Trust me. If you support equity, you support justice, you are one of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, The Washington Post reported on the attempt last week to manage the crisis from the racist Tweet, quote, advisers wrote new talking points and handed him reams of opposition research on the four congresswomen, pivot to patriotism, focus on their ideas and behavior, not identity. Some would still see a racist agenda. The argument went, but at least it would not be so explicit.
Anyway, the President took issue with that report, writing, now, really, does that sound like me? What advisers? There were no talking points except for those stated by me and reams of paper were never given to me. Well, in fact, a photo of the President`s notes from an event last week shows otherwise with this set of bullet points calling the women dangerous. That`s a quote from the talking points, anti-Semitic, that`s also on the talking points, anti-American as well among other things.
For more, I`m joined by Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Jason Johnson, Politics Editor for TheRoot.com, and Adrienne Elrod, former Senior Adviser to the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Peter, first, the President, a couple of things. What`s this anti-Semitic thing? It`s like this weird precious bodily fluid. So it comes out of nowhere. And every time he goes after the quartet, he brings it up. Is this playing to the evangelicals, the conservative Jewish voters? Who is he after here?
PETER BAKER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, yes, so all of those things. And let`s face it, Congresswoman Omar -- Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has said a number of things that are taken to be anti-Semitic, even by fellow democrats. She said that this democratic support for Israel was all about the Benjamins, meaning money, which is an old anti-Semitic trope. She said a number of other things that have been condemned even by fellow democrats.
At the same time, she`s criticizing Israel for its policies and its treatment of the Palestinians. So there is a real fine line there between, you know, a perfectly legitimate policy debate and, you know, comments that are perceived to be about hate toward Jewish Americans or Israeli Jews. And that`s what the President is leaning on.
He`s leaning on that in part because it`s a shield, I think, against the racism accusations against him. How can he be racist when he is going after them for being hate mongers themselves?
MATTHEWS: Yes. So this a social (ph) old man basically from the street corner.
BAKER: Yes, it is, exactly. Yes. And he`s trying to recalibrate the debate, trying to say, look, don`t forget what they`ve said.
MATTHEWS: Jason, your thoughts about this, because it s gets very tribal, of course, and the President knows how to play that game better than anybody. The four women aren`t laying up either. So both sides want a fight here, clearly. Your thoughts about who is right.
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT: Well, look, the President wants a fight, Chris. These four women who -- I always think this is important before people say squad or anything like that. They`re from the heartland. We`re talking Michigan, Minnesota, working class voters in New York. The President is actually attacking the very types of voters that democrats say they want to keep.
So in all honesty, he wants this fight because identity politics and racism works for him. I think in the case of the Democratic Party and these four members of congress, they`re still trying to pass legislation. They are on defense because this is not the identity that they placed upon themselves. This is one that Donald Trump placed upon them. And I think the --
MATTHEWS: And why do they call themselves a squad if they don`t want to identify with each other?
JOHNSON: Well, it`s not an issue of wanting to identify with each other. They don`t necessarily want to be the face of the Democratic Party. That is something that has been --
MATTHEWS: They don`t?
JOHNSON: I don`t necessarily think --
MATTHEWS: You don`t think they`re challenging -- just to be honest here, you don`t think they`re challenging Nancy Pelosi for the direction of the party on issues like, you know, what we`re talking about here?
JOHNSON: I think that they, just like Katie Porter, who is a very liberal white woman who has talked about financial issues, I think you have a lot of very liberal freshmen who have been able to establish themselves as being new leaders and freshmen in the party, and I think they want to push the party in a particular direction. I don`t think any of these people are challenging for leadership and I don`t think any of them think that they`re the face of the Democratic Party.
These are vastly different individuals. You`ve got AOC who is 29 years old. You`ve got Ayanna Presley who is 45. They come from different places, different districts. And I think it`s easy to sort of clump them all together, certainly for republicans, and say, look at this brown menace that`s trying to move the party in a radical direction, when, in fact, a lot of their policies are very similar to many other freshmen democrats who got elected in 2018.
MATTHEWS: Well, the President`s charge that the four congresswomen are themselves racist comes just a day after White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller offered his own deflection while defending the President`s attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN MILLER WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: I think the term racist, Chris, has become a label that is too often deployed by the left, democrats in this country, simply to try to silence and punish and suppress people they disagree with, speech that they don`t want to hear. The reality is that this president has been a president for all of Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, going home, go home, if you don`t like it here is a racist trope.
ADRIENNE ELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO THE HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Yes, of course it is. Of course, it is. And Donald Trump has no interest in stopping that racist trope from being used at his rallies.
But, look, here`s what he`s doing, Chris. Donald Trump wants this to be the news. He wants this to be him versus the squad. He wants this to drive the news right now because he has essentially done none -- failed on all the promises that he made to his base, right? Immigration is still a mess. The tax cut bill that he passed has not helped the working class -- you know, people in America who supported him in large chunks in 2016. So he`s failed on a lot of his policies. This is what he wants to drive the news right now. And the more, frankly, that we`re out here talking about it, the more that I think he thinks it helps him.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think -- let me go back to Peter on this and around everybody on this question because I wonder if there are enough angry white people basically to win this thing for him in 2020. And the argument I`m hearing is that there are people fraying at the edges around the core of his people. They are losing interest. They`re not thrilled. They don`t think anything is enough in terms of their anger, to be, you know, satisfying, if you will. They can`t stay angry enough.
So Trump is trying to rewind them up again for 2020 because if he doesn`t, he won`t get the core back there form again. Is that`s what`s going on, Peter? He needs to wind them up again?
BAKER: Look, President Trump likes to have a foil, an enemy. He likes to have somebody to play off of. You know, Hillary Clinton was that person obviously in 2016, and quite honestly, through much of 2017 and 2018 as well. We don`t have a democratic nominee yet for him to play off of, and so he has chosen these four young congresswomen as his foil for the moment. And if he manages to brand the entire Democratic Party with this idea of, you know, socialism or extremism or radicalism, then he creates a choice for people who might be tired of him but might be more turned off by the other side. That`s the gamble he`s making.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he went out serendipitously here by getting Pelosi to close ranks around those four in the squad by making -- clearly not everybody thinks it was a racist charge to go back where you came from or whatever? By doing that, he got the democrats to circle the wagons. And in a sense, he`s actually promoted them as really the heart of the Democratic Party. I don`t think he is that smart.
MATTHEWS: Jason, your thought there? I`ll get to you. Do you think he`s that smart that he figured out, I can get them all to bunch together, I can get Pelosi to round and support them and become really with them, making the Democratic Party very left, when, in fact, Pelosi doesn`t want to do that. She wants to position the party center-left and left. And this made the -- the President, by attacking those four, getting Pelosi to defend those four, circle the party further left than Pelosi thought was smart. Your thoughts, Jason?
JOHNSON: No, no, I don`t think -- I agree with you, Chris. I don`t think the President is that smart. And let`s be clear, Nancy Pelosi has come to the defense of these four members, these four freshmen members of Congress, because the President threatens their safety with this kind of racist invective. She has made that abundantly clear to anyone willing to listen. They`re just four votes. They don`t run this party. So I don`t think the President has successfully managed to clump them together. He`s gotten the Democratic Party to make sure that, hey, look, these people aren`t in danger.
But, Chris, this is the other thing that I think is really important. The President knows that he has to rile up his people, as we mentioned before. His approval rating with republicans went up five points in some polls after these sort of racist attacks. But the other thing to remember is this, the democratic base is watching as well, and these four freshmen representing the heartland and New York and Minnesota and Massachusetts and everything else like that, there are lots of democrats who are looking at the party to make sure that these freshmen are being protected as well.
So I think this is actually galvanizing both sides, which is not something I think Donald Trump expected when he attacked them initially.
MATTHEWS: Do you remember -- well, yes, while I have you on here, Jason, it just click on me. I always think in terms of general elections and what you have to do in the end. You know how Jesse Jackson was always recruited by whoever beat him in the primaries to give him a couple million bucks and an airplane, that was always, to go out there and do registration or whatever.
MATTHEWS: Well, they`ve become -- ironically, well, they`ve become the auxiliary, whoever wins the nomination, left or center-left. And they`ll say, wait, we`ve got to get the African-American vote in the big cities. We`ve got to get the progressives out. They didn`t come out for Hillary. We`ve got to do it. Maybe those four will be the team that goes out there and do it. They`ll -- you know, that kind of thing.
JOHNSON: Yes, they will be. And that`s what`s interesting about it. I mean, think about it, Rashida --
MATTHEWS: Flying squadron, I think they call them in the Irish, the flying squadron.
JOHNSON: They`ll fly in -- I mean, think about it. Rashida Tlaib is from Michigan. Now, not every single voter in Michigan obviously would agree with all of her policies and positions but she is popular in that state. Minnesota is a place that republicans have targeted. New York is a place where democrats want to make sure they run up the score. They want to make sure they keep congressional seats.
So all of these women end up being of value to the Democratic Party. And whoever the nominee is, especially if it is a centrist democrat, is going to surround themselves with people like AOC, with Ayanna Pressley, with Stacey Abrams, with as many black and brown women as they can find, because that is the group that has it turn out for democrats to win the Midwestern states and retake the White House.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about Trump here. After trying to disavow his supporters when they chanted, send her back, the President called the North Carolina rally-goers patriots. I think he likes it when they do it.
Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence weighed in on that controversy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The President wasn`t pleased about it and neither was I. And the President has been very clear about that.
But what we`re also not pleased about is the fact that there are four members of Congress who are engaging in the most outrageous --
MAJOR GARRETT, CBS HOST: Yes. But you know that this president`s relationship with his supporters is as close as anyone has ever had in American politics. This could all go away with one simple word or a phrase or something. You have a chance to say it right now. Don`t do it again. Is that your message?
PENCE: Major, the President was very clear --
GARRETT: Was he?
PENCE: -- that he wasn`t happy about it. And that if it happened again, he might -- he might -- he`d make an effort to speak out about it.
GARRETT: He will make an effort to speak out about it?
PENCE: That`s what he`s already said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Adrienne, nobody does piety better than Mike Pence. That is his specialty. That pious manner of sit in sadness, not in happiness --
ELROD: It`s a skill, I guess. It`s a skill. I don`t know. But, look, I think what we saw this past Sunday on all the Sunday shows with Mike Pence, Mercedes Schlapp, you know, Stephen Miller out of the Sunday shows, if you want to remain viable in that White House, if you want to remain in Trump`s orbit and influential, you have to go out there and basically kiss the ring and do whatever he says.
And so you had the people in the White House -- by the way, I don`t know why Stephen Miller keeps going out because he`s not a very effective surrogate for Trump. But if you want to remain in Trump`s good graces, you have to go out there and defend him on everything.
And it was interesting to see how all of these surrogates on the Sunday shows sort of tried to, you know, make excuses while also trying sound I think a little, you know, legitimate or without completely compromising their own integrity.
MATTHEWS: Peter, this used to be or has always been a Kellyanne, especially, you know, going -- defending the indefensible. I mean, saying, go home where you came from or if you don`t like it here, get the hell out, if that`s not racist. And yet the only thing around in this pious way, saying, oh, that`s not what he meant. He meant go back to your district. That`s not what he meant, Peter.
BAKER: Well, it`s not what he said. Of course, the Tweet was really clear. He originally said that they`re from other countries and they should go back. They`re not from other countries. Three of them are not from other countries and the fourth, of course, is a naturalized American citizen.
And I think that`s obviously, you know, the assumption behind that that was so powerfully revealing. It wasn`t just that these were immigrants, these are -- these are Americans, American-born congresswomen and American citizens. So that`s what riled people up.
But I think he wanted to get into the middle of a democratic fight that was going on. You know, the four young women versus Pelosi, who, as you said, said they`re only four votes. You know, they`re not that powerful. And they kind of want to stir things up and instead, of course, he made it all about himself. And so democrats kind of came together behind a unifying thing of him being the adversary.
So whether that paid off for him, he thinks it has, but it also interrupted a democratic internal debate.
MATTHEWS: Well, luckily for the democrats and luckily for a lot of good people, the President is not so smart because a week before when Ayanna Presley came out and said black members of Congress should vote black, talk black, be black, identity politics personified, he should have just let that lay there and let that one savor -- country savor that argument for awhile, because then he would have come out on top in the last two weeks instead of playing defense.
Anyway, Peter Baker, thank you, Jason Johnson, Adrienne Elrod.
Coming up, much more on Trump and racism, which is the story right now. Why the democratic presidential campaign should not be an ideological struggle but a frontal attack on the moral issue. This campaign is shaping up if the democrats get it right of good against evil.
And anti-racism activists out there whose Tweets on this very issue went viral this week and joins me to talk about the dangers of normalizing President Trump, running against him as if he`s just another republican.
Plus, we`re less than 48 hours now away from Robert Mueller`s congressional testimony. Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler now says he believes there is substantial evidence the President is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. So what are the chances Wednesday`s hearings are going to lead to impeachment?
Much more ahead. Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The country is bracing right now for impact as all of Washington gets ready for Robert Mueller`s highly anticipated testimony Wednesday. Democrats whom a committee staffer has said never prepared for a hearing like they have for this one intend to show how the President`s actions meet the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors.
Here`s House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The report presents very substantial evidence that the President is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors and we have to present the -- or let Mueller present those facts to the American people and then see where we go from there because the administration must be held accountable and no president can be -- can be above the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And now, Politico has revealed that the Justice Department warned Mueller to limit his testimony to his public findings, in other words, what`s in the report. According to a former U.S. official, the Justice Department is, quote, taking the position that anything outside the written pages of the report, the Mueller report, are things about which presidential privilege hasn`t been waived.
Well, CBS News has also acquired a letter to Mueller dated today in which the Justice Department says: "Any testimony must remain within the boundaries of your public report."
Meanwhile, President Trump tweeted his opposition to Mueller`s testimony today again, saying: "Mueller should not be given another bite at the apple. In the end, it will be bad for him and the phony Democrats in Congress."
He also reported -- repeated his assertion that he won`t watch the hearings, though he conceded that he might catch some of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I`m not going to be watching, probably. Maybe I will see a little bit of it. I`m not going to be watching Mueller, because you can`t take all those bites out of the apple.
He still ruled no collusion, no obstruction. And this thing should have ended a long time ago. This has been going on for two-and-a-half years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: While Trump has been trying to downplay his interests in the hearings, NBC News notes that -- quote -- "The president`s schedule for that day" -- that`s Wednesday -- "only includes a routine lunch. And aides point to his executive time as a natural window for Trump to take in snippets of the coverage."
I will bet more than that.
I`m joined right now by Democratic Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania, the vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee. And Heidi Przybyla is correspondent for NBC News.
Thank you. Congresswoman, thank you for joining us.
What is your -- I don`t know. I guess this isn`t fair, but what`s your greatest hope for Wednesday from Mueller?
REP. MARY GAY SCANLON (D-PA): Well, we hope that the American people tune in to actually watch Bob Mueller testify.
And, when they do, they will see that the president`s been peddling fake news. He`s been saying no obstruction, no collusion, and, in fact, that`s not what the Mueller report says.
MATTHEWS: What about the Justice Department apparently putting accomplish pressure now, clearly public pressure, on Mueller not to go anywhere beyond his brief, what`s in the written report? No word beyond it?
GAY SCANLON: Well, I mean, this is what we have been seeing for months, is that the Justice Department and the administration have been trying to suppress the witnesses, redact the report, and hide the evidence. I think the president is terrified.
MATTHEWS: Well, this isn`t -- it`s not exactly like Pentangeli`s brother showing up at the witness hearing during the hearings in the rackets committee.
But they seem to be saying they have got something on Mueller, they have got some power over him. Isn`t he a retired official of the Justice Department? What power do they really have?
GAY SCANLON: I think they are under -- seriously underestimating Bob Mueller, because Bob Mueller is nothing if not a patriot. And I think he`s shown throughout this entire proceeding that he`s going to do the right thing.
He`s going to do his job. He`s going to perform an investigation. And he`s going to bring out the truth, regardless of what the president wants.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you and your caucus, your Democratic -- you`re one of the leaders of the caucus and that committee.
You know, watching these hearings, like I do -- most people do watch on television -- you sit and watch -- there is always a pattern. The five- minute rule creates sort of a new event every five minutes. A member of Congress comes on. They sort of introduce themselves. They sort of make a play for people out there to like them, I guess.
And then they finally get to some questions. And they don`t seem to have any coherent relationship to what we just heard from the congressperson asking questions a minute or two before.
Is there going to be a coherent development of questioning by each congressman following up on the other, or is it going to be the same old sort of individual show?
GAY SCANLON: Well, I can`t speak for the Republican Caucus. I know that a few of them have said things that my impression is that they`re trying to turn it into a circus.
But, you know, the Democratic side of the aisle, we have been preparing for this for months.
GAY SCANLON: We felt we expected to see Bob Mueller immediately after he released his report. But the president`s been holding it.
MATTHEWS: Will it be a coherent set of questions, one following the other, or is each one -- will individual members of Congress freelance?
GAY SCANLON: I expect that it will be a coherent set of questions, although we`re going to have the interruption of having Republican members question Mr. Mueller in between.
MATTHEWS: I know.
But your two-hour prep session tomorrow that we have heard you`re going to have, a two-hour prep session on the Democratic side of the committee, will you be doing through sort of like a chain of questioning, so that one person follows up on the other when Mr. Mueller may not get to the point you want him to?
Will you be following up on each other?
GAY SCANLON: You know what? I haven`t been briefed on what we`re going to do in that session yet.
But I do know that we will be having prep sessions for. But we have been having prep sessions for weeks.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.
Well, anyway, Bob Mueller`s made clear his reluctance to testify this week. And this isn`t his first rodeo either.
According to "The New York Times," Mueller`s appeared before Congress about 88 times dating back to 1990. And throughout those appearances, he showed little patience for politics.
Here is one fiery exchange Mueller had with Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): Why did no one go to the mosque and say, who are these guys? They attend -- may attend here. Why was that not done, since such a thorough job was done?
ROBERT MUELLER, RUSSIA PROBE SPECIAL COUNSEL: Your facts are not altogether well...
GOHMERT: I point out specifically...
MUELLER: May I finish my...
GOHMERT: Point out specifically. Sir, if you`re going to call me a liar, you need to some point out specifically where any facts are wrong.
MUELLER: We went to the mosque...
MUELLER: Prior to Boston.
GOHMERT: Prior to Boston?
MUELLER: Prior to Boston happening, we were in that mosque talking to the imams several months beforehand, as part of our outreach efforts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Heidi, let`s talk about this thing.
This -- there`s two sides to this fight. Congresswoman Scanlon has one side, the Democratic side, generally speaking. The Republicans see it as an opportunity to bring down Mueller, don`t they?
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Of course they do. This is the only strategy that they would have going into this.
And given that Nancy Pelosi has told her members to keep it even, no drama, just lay out the facts, let them speak for themselves, on the Republican side, the strategy is all about going back to the lovers that, you know...
MATTHEWS: Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
PRZYBYLA: Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, talking about the origins of the dossier.
And, you know, with this five-minute rule, no matter how disciplined the Democrats are in painting this narrative and following it up, it will get mussed up by the drama on the other side of the aisle.
And we all know how that works with kind of sound bites and the cameras on them. So if there is any room for drama here, it`s definitely going to be on the Republican side.
But I do think that, based on the Democrats I have talked to, Chris, they do have a strategy in place. And it is to establish early that when Mueller said that he could not reach a conclusion because of the OLC opinion, he was emphatic about that in his statement. That is foundational. You start with that.
And I talked with Madeleine Dean, who is on the committee as well, is one of the members who told me this. You start with that foundation, and you build on top of that. You build the building blocks. Did you say no collusion in your report? Very basic. The answer to that is obviously no. Did you say no obstruction? Again, no.
So these things, they can build, you know, have the building blocks, but, of course, it will get just, because of this five-minute rule, messed up by what`s going on, on the other side of the aisle.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, do you think establishing the fact that Mr. Mueller didn`t go ahead and actually indict the president was because he didn`t believe a president can be indicted while in office would give you, as members of the Congress on the Democratic side, a chance to pursue the prosecution, basically?
GAY SCANLON: Well, his report reads like a prosecutorial document.
He says at the outset: I did not indict because I could not, but here are all the facts that I found.
He also says, if I could have said no obstruction, I would have, but I could not say that because there is so much evidence.
He goes through. He details 10 different incidents of obstruction of justice, some of which amount to criminal conduct. So, you know, I think it`s really important that we lay all that out. And, you know, if we get to the bottom line, I think Trump`s initial reaction to the Mueller investigation was the appropriate one.
He said: Oh, my God, this is terrible. This is the end of my presidency.
And I think he was right.
MATTHEWS: How do you progress further? If you`re a member of the House Democratic side, assumingly, who wants to see impeachment proceeded with, what`s your standard coming out of the hearing on Wednesday? What do you want to think -- happen -- what headline do you want that would give you the juice to proceed further with -- with an impeachment?
GAY SCANLON: Impeachment is essentially a political decision, and it`s going to have to be the American people who reach that conclusion.
I hope that, after this hearing, a lot of Americans are saying, oh, my God, I had no idea that was in the report.
MATTHEWS: And you think that would be enough to stimulate a national call for impeachment?
GAY SCANLON: I think it could. We certainly saw, during the Watergate hearings, that, when the hearings started, when the evidence started being put forward, the American public wasn`t there.
But, as they learned what was really going on in the White House, they came to that conclusion themselves.
PRZYBYLA: The real opportunity here, Chris, is not necessarily on the obstruction side. I have to disagree just a little bit, because we have seen the numbers on impeachment notch down to about 20 percent now of the public.
A lot of the Democrats who I talk to privately acknowledge that those numbers are unlikely to move dramatically, that this is part of a much longer evolution. But the real opportunity here is to get out in front of the American people and make it so difficult for the Republicans to not be cooperating with them when it comes to Russian interference, to get those basic points...
MATTHEWS: How will Pelosi look about after all this?
PRZYBYLA: ... through -- 126 million Americans reached through the Russian -- by Russian IRA in attempts to influence our election.
MATTHEWS: Well, I hope...
PRZYBYLA: These are the things that need to come out.
MATTHEWS: I hope we learn that.
Let me ask you the partisan question. Will Pelosi look good after this in her attempt to sort of slow this push to impeachment down? Will she look like she was the wise one?
PRZYBYLA: I think it could be net neutral. I think she had to do this.
She`s not going to declare victory after this and say, OK, let`s go ahead with these impeachment hearings now. That`s not going to happen.
But to satisfy her base and just to do the right thing, she had to do this. And in fairness to the Democrats, it`s been really difficult for them to get Mueller. They have a witness who is bordering on uncooperative. He does not want to be there. He`s made that clear.
MATTHEWS: Well, you`re great coming on tonight.
Thank you so much, Mary Gay Scanlon, of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Thank you for coming on.
GAY SCANLON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Heidi Przybyla, thank you.
Up next: Donald Trump captured 2.9 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016, almost three million less than her, and still won in the Electoral College. Is it possible Trump could lose the popular vote again by millions more in 2020 and win again? You better believe it. More details straight ahead.
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In a piece out for NBC News, political analyst Dave Wasserman writes: "The ultimate nightmare for scenario for Democrats is that Trump loses the popular vote by more than five million votes, but Trump wins reelection by two electoral votes."
Nate Cohn, who writes -- covers elections for "The New York Times," argues the president`s Electoral College advantage comes from his strength in tipping-point states, which are states most likely to push the candidate over the Electoral College threshold.
In one example he argues that Wisconsin, which decided the 2016 election, there, the president`s approval rating stands steady around 47 percent, which was all he needed to win last time.
For more, I`m joined by Jonathan Allen, NBC News digital correspondent.
So let`s get into the fearsome numbers for people who are progressives and moderates and whatever else who don`t like Trump.
When you see these national polls that show Trump down by five, what`s it mean?
JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: It doesn`t mean that much.
It means something in terms of measuring his popularity at the moment, but he`s not got an opponent right now. So we don`t know who he`s fighting. Right? It`s candidate X. That`s meaningless. It does mean a measurement of how he`s approved vs. how he was earlier.
It does not mean how he`s doing state by state, which, as we all know, is how the Electoral College is won.
The nightmare scenario for Democrats is they lose the next election, and it doesn`t matter whether they lose the next election...
ALLEN: ... by one electoral vote or 10 electoral votes. And it certainly doesn`t matter -- you look at the electoral votes -- and this is the point Dave Wasserman is making in his piece -- they can win California by one vote or they can win it by five million votes. They get the same number of electoral votes.
MATTHEWS: They can win California by 10 million votes with Kamala and Buttigieg. They could win with a ticket like that and get killed all across the country until you get to New York.
Potentially -- right. Potentially, you can lose a ton of states and run up the score in California. You can even get close in a big state like Texas and pad some of your popular vote margin and lose the Electoral College.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about that, what happened last time. And that is that Hillary Clinton did very well in the popular vote. She won by about three or four. It was closer to four.
And yet, in the states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and -- Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, she just lost by a little.
ALLEN: About 70,000 to 80,000 votes across three states made the difference in the Electoral College.
MATTHEWS: Well, according to Nate Cohn, that pattern is following up this time, that Trump is -- despite his problem in terms of the popular vote, that he is doing pretty well comparative to those -- in those states right now, good enough to win.
ALLEN: Well, the problem with these analysis right now is we`re a year- and-a-half out and we have no idea what the electorate is going to look like. Right? So...
MATTHEWS: So, you`re challenging what I`m talking about?
ALLEN: Well, I`m just -- no, I`m not...
MATTHEWS: Yes, you are.
ALLEN: I`m not challenging the theory. The theory is apt.
But the problem is, all these prognostications fail to know for sure who it that is going to show up and where they`re going to show up. And that`s what these campaigns are about. And the candidates matter.
MATTHEWS: But we know where Trump`s strength is. We know Trump.
ALLEN: We know Trump`s strength, and Trump knows what his strength is.
And that`s why we`re seeing right now him make these blatantly racist appeals.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he`s appealing with the quartet so he knows that will hurt him on the coasts, but it will help him inside? Is he that smart?
ALLEN: He knows not only that it`s going to hurt him on the coasts and help him in some of the interior places, but I think specifically in certain places where he says, look, if you want to run up the vote in Ilhan Omar`s district in Minneapolis, or you want to run up the vote in Rashida Tlaib`s district in Detroit, what I might be able to do is get some resentment in the suburbs or the exurbs around them and try to flush out some of those people who support me, but didn`t vote for me last time.
He`s trying to get every last Trump-supporting person out to the polls.
And I think he goes after this anti-Semitic thing. He just focuses on that, because he knows that that is where the opposition to those people is going to come from. He`s going to play that with evangelicals and some Jewish voters. He figures, I`m going to make them the bad guys.
ALLEN: Well, it`s really about the evangelical voters. The Jewish voters are such a small percentage of the population.
MATTHEWS: Especially conservative Jewish voters. But the evangelicals are everywhere, right?
ALLEN: It`s a huge portion of his base.
Thank you so much.
And that`s why he`s going to keep Mike Pence on the ticket, I think.
Anyway, Jonathan Allen.
Up next: Policy proposals won`t be enough to beat Trump next year -- why the Democratic nominee will need to focus on one overriding issue, the moral danger of Trump`s racist message and, you could argue -- and it will be argued -- his presidency.
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Democrats face a choice in 2020. Do they take on Donald Trump as if he`s just another Republican president whose policies they say are wrong or do they argue something more dire? That the man seeking a second term in the White House presents a moral danger to this country. Do they make 2020 a fight between good and evil?
Well, in a series of tweets that went viral this weekend, author and anti- racism argument Tim Wise argued the challenge that Democrats face now to what they faced when the former KKK leader, David Duke, was running for office in Louisiana in the early 1990s. Wise who campaigned against Duke and helped defeat him twice argued this weekend that the Democrats will blow this election if they fail to focus on the evil that Trump personifies.
Wise writes: People who say the Democrats should ignore Trump`s race- baiting because it`s some political genius strategy calculate to distract us are idiots. He`s no genius. If you downplay it, you normalize him. You make this about policy, you normalize him.
He adds: If anything, I would say crafting an argument that this is an existential crisis for the nature and making it about Trump`s bigotry and who we want to be as a country would be far more effective.
Wow. Tim Wise says that as Democrats prepare for 2020, there is a lesson they can learn from Republicans. Wise joins us next.
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
As Democrats work on their strategy to counter President Trump ahead of the 2020 election, anti-racism activist Tim Wise who helped defeat David Duke in two campaigns in the 1990s provided this advice to Democrats. He tweeted: What the left never understands we need to stop approaching elections like the debate team and start approaching it like the right does, like the cheerleading squad. The right knows psychology and we know public policy and sociology. Great. The latter does not win elections.
Joining me now is Tim Wise, the author of "White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privilege Son", and Eugene Robinson, a columnist at "The Washington Post".
Tim, this theme of yours which, you know, I have serendipitously came to myself over the weekend, about the morality of this election and to think about it as a Manichean struggle between good and evil. Talk about your thinking, which is more analytical about it.
TIM WISE, AUTHOR, "WHITE LIKE ME": Yes, you know, one of the things that we learned dealing with David Duke -- and I`m not trying to say that Duke and Trump are the same, but they both appeal to white racial resentment as the yeast that makes their political bread rise. And when you`re dealing with a movement that focuses on that, in a sense a white identity cult, to act like they are just another candidate, to say, well, yes, you know, he is sort of racist, and that was really racist what he did, but look at my policy to make college affordable or look at my better health care plan that is going to be so much better than his is to miss the point.
With Duke, you know, what we learned is you have to make this a moral message that Dukism and I would say now Trumpism pose an existential threat to the values that Americans hold dear. So in other words, when they say the squad hates America -- no, no, no, your movement hates America as an idea, an idea of multiculturalism, of pluralism and of democracy. That`s the only way we`re going to motivate the base. It`s the only way we`re going to get reasonable moderates and conservatives who probably are never going to agree on policy with the candidates the Democrats have, but they can come together on the basis of a moral message and we can live to fight another day about the issues that we care about once the Democrat has defeated Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Gene, your reaction to that?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I`ve read Tim`s threat with great interest over the weekend. In fact, I retweeted it. I thought it was -- I thought it had great insights, particularly the bit about the debating team versus the cheerleading squad.
ROBINSON: And -- and, you know, you look at the field of Democratic candidates and I totally agree that if it`s -- if it`s sort of emotionless policy, no matter how wonderfully, finely constructed and put together, that`s no competition to the sort of emotional visceral appeal --
ROBINSON: -- that Trump is making to his base.
And I also agree that there are not a lot of persuadables here. There are not a lot of undecideds here.
ROBINSON: You know, after Charlottesville, you know, after name your atrocity, I think the people who were part of Trump`s coalition in 2016 who said, you know, basta, I`ve had enough with this guy, they probably have said that, right?
ROBINSON: They`re probably not going to say it between now and then. They probably now are not still teetering on the fence. So I don`t -- I don`t know what you gain by trying to appeal to what I think is kind of a mythical group of people --
ROBINSON: -- that you`re going to peel away from him.
MATTHEWS: Tim Wise, I`m looking at the candidates. Even after just one debate, everybody watching watched that debate. There will be another in a couple of weeks. Each of these candidates on Democratic side have already got banners they`re carrying.
MATTHEWS: They are carrying the banner of Medicare for All. They got a banner on immigration issues of compassion on the border, whatever, student loan issues. They have a lot of banners they`re already trucking out her.
MATTHEWS: How do they put them aside or at least deflect them for a moment, you know what? It`s not about left or right or policy prescriptions, it`s about what kind of country we want to be. How does anybody sort of get themselves disarmed at least to make that point?
WISE: Well, I think any of those debaters on the stage in the debates coming up ought to lead by saying, listen, we have some disagreements on this stage and I happen to like my plans better than the podium next to me`s plans, but the truth is everybody up here has better ideas for this country than Donald Trump and we hope that you check them out.
But in the meantime please understand that this movement that he is leading poses a threat to the values that this country holds dear. It is a movement that is opposed to pluralism, opposed to multiculturalism. It is a white identity cult and we all can do better than that.
Now I also think it`s important to take those issues and filter them through a lens that contrasts them with the white resentment politics. So, for example, if I`m a candidate who wants to talk about Wall Street or how corporations don`t pay their workers enough, I need to be saying, you know, Donald Trump wants you to think that the reason your paycheck isn`t big enough is because taxes are going to support people of color or immigrants are taking your job. What we`re telling you is, no, no, that`s not the source of your problem, here`s the source of your problem, but you`re always linking it back and making it clear that Donald Trump is essentially a walking, talking opiate.
We talk about the opioid crisis as being heroin and fentanyl. Donald Trump is a human breathing opiate. What does an opiate do? It says, I can take away your pain, but it doesn`t actually solve the source of your pain. That is what this individual should be saying. That is what we said against David Duke in `90 and `91 and it is the only thing that prevented a Nazi and former Klansman from winning those campaigns.
MATTHEWS: If I`m one of the candidates standing besides other than Joe Biden, I`m hearing this and I`m saying, yes, that`s the Joe Biden strategy. Go after Trump. Saying I didn`t like what happened in Charlottesville. I didn`t like that president siding up with bad guys.
And I`m one of the other candidates, I say, you know what? That`s Biden`s strategy. My strategy is to beat Biden.
ROBINSON: Well, right, exactly. First of all, first somebody`s got to come out on top, right? So they`re competing against each other. But I think it`s a great -- look what happened to Biden when he launched his campaign with that appeal. He immediately rocketed to the top.
ROBINSON: He is still at the top despite a --
MATTHEWS: Can anybody else do this?
ROBINSON: -- weeks of uninspiring performance.
MATTHEWS: What if Kamala said I`m going to do that?
ROBINSON: She can totally --
WISE: They can all do it.
ROBINSON: They can all do it and they should.
WISE: Marianne Williamson is doing it. If Marianne Williamson`s doing it, they can all do it. Believe me.
MATTHEWS: OK, Tim, you`ve been a great guest. Great to have you on. See you in about five years. Just kidding.
Let`s focus on the ones that can win. I think in four --
WISE: I`m teasing, I`m teasing.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. It`s a good argument. You know, I had it this weekend. I think the moral issue is important.
In the end of history, it`s going to matter the most. Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys?
MATTHEWS: And I think we`re going to see that.
One thing we know about this election, we were talking about it with our producers today, rarely in history do we know so much about one of the two candidates. We know about who he is, what he is and how he does business.
We know Donald Trump from toe to head. We know everything -- we don`t have to look any further to understanding who he is. We have to spend the next year and a half doing is finding somebody who can beat him.
MATTHEWS: Because I think we really know this guy. We don`t need to know any more about Donald Trump. He`s not going to change.
That`s the thought. I`m sticking with that one. Good luck with the Williamson campaign, Tim. Just kidding.
MATTHEWS: You`re a good teaser. Thank you. You got me. Thank you, Tim Wise. Great thinking. I love it.
Eugene Robinson, as always, thoughtful and wise.
Up next, I`m going to put this moral case against Trump in historic terms. What you just heard, I think there is a whole history of this question of morality in American politics. If you step back a little, it`s not all about unemployment rate and things like that, it`s about who we are and want to be.
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MATTHEWS: I want to follow up on what we discussed before the break, the moral dimension of next year`s election. Much of our country`s history has been a moral struggle, don`t you think? We had the battle hymn of the republic playing as our country lost 600,000 lives in the war that ended slavery. And whatever else can be said about it, the civil war was profoundly about that, ending the evil of one man owning another.
And then a century later came another moral victory with the civil rights movement and the passage of the bill to end separate water fountains, white-only department store lunch counters and white-only restaurants and hotels. After that came the Voting Rights Act. In each of these cases, the country`s majority population backed the moral course, ending slavery, ending Jim Crow, ending the deprivation of voter rights.
And we now face another historic point of moral conflict and for millions of voters moral decision. Re-electing Donald Trump, given what he said from the very beginning as a national political force to his latest rants about sending home members of the United States Congress, reeks of immorality. He cannot be a good American and mock the Americanness of someone based on color or ethnicity for the simply reason that we are a country not based on such factors, but on more basic notions of liberty and human dignity.
Re-electing Donald Trump would take us into a dangerous moral direction from which it will take a wrenching turn to get us back. Instead of delivering us from evil, it would deliver us to evil. It`s something to be said about looking toward 2020. It could be the most important thing to think about.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
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