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President Trump's uncoerced confessions. TRANSCRIPT: 7/26/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Susan Page; Rob Reiner; Jefferson Van Drew, Neera Tanden,Shermichael Singleton, Mick Richards

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Decision time.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Is there still time to impeach Donald Trump?  If so, how much time?  Is September, as one top democrat told me last night, the time to either put up or shut up?  Well, House Democrats claim they`re already putting maximum pressure on President Trump and his administration.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  The committee is exercising its authority to investigate all these scandals and to decide what to do about them, which could include articles of impeachment.  And we filed that with the court.


MATTHEWS:  Acting persecuted, President Trump, who Robert Mueller clearly did not exonerate, attacked the democrats and called on his party to investigate former President Obama.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  It`s a disgrace.  We want to find out what happened with the last democrat president.  Let`s look into Obama the way they`ve looked at me.  From day one, they`ve looked into everything that we`ve done.  They could look into the book deal that President Obama made.  Let`s subpoena all of his records.  Let`s subpoena all of the records having to do with Hillary Clinton and all of the nonsense that went on with Clinton and her foundation and everything else.  We could do that all day long.

Frankly, the republicans were gentlemen and women when we had the majority in the House.


MATTHEWS:  Well, sometimes he baffles me again and again.  I can`t believe it.  The book deal?  Talk about red herrings.

Anyway, during the Obama administration, the republican-controlled House launched numerous investigations at President Obama and his administration.  Unlike President Trump, Obama did not try to obstruct those investigations, nor was he investigated for soliciting help from a hostile foreign government like Trump duly should have been in a sign of how polarizing the Mueller investigation has become.

However, a new survey by Morning Consult and Politico shows that 41 percent of Americans do not believe Mueller exonerated president Trump while 35 percent believe he did, even though he said he didn`t the other day under oath.

Public opinion on impeachment remains steady with 46 percent of voters opposing impeachment, 37 percent supporting it.  That`s 46 percent against right now, 37 against -- 46 against 37 for.

Meanwhile, the number of democrats supporting impeachment is growing.  Here is an up to date list of the 97 democrats in the House who support launching an impeachment inquiry.  Now, that`s quite a list.  The number of democrats supporting impeachment has grown from 58 back in December of 2017 when the house voted on impeachment the first time.

Well, since Mueller`s public testimony on Wednesday, seven additional members of the House have voiced their support for impeachment.  And as of today, those who back impeachment in the House are 121 votes short of a required majority, then closed alone former republican former Justin Amash, who supports putting the President on trial as well.

Speaker Pelosi has been trying to balance the diverging factions of her party, defended her approach.


REPORTER:  Some of your democratic colleagues believe you`re simply trying to run out the clock on impeachment.  Are you trying run out the clock?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  No, I`m not trying to run out the clock.  Let`s get sophisticated about this, okay?  So I`m willing to take whatever heat there is there to say when the decision will be made in a timely fashion, this isn`t endless, and when we have the best, strongest possible case.


MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by Susan Page, USA Today Washington Bureau Chief, and Rob Reiner, actor, director and activist.  Thank you both for joining us.

Susan, I had Jackie Speier on last night, one of the top people loyal to Speaker Pelosi, and she says September 1 is a good day to look at, because you got to look ahead.  It takes six months to do this, if you follow the Nixon timeframe.  You can`t be doing it right in the middle of a presidential debate season, for example, because the voters will then say, wait a minute, this is our call at this point.  It seems to me there`s a reasonable idea, it seems to me, it`s coming close to do it or don`t do it and stop talking about it.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY:  Right.  Labor Day is probably about that moment.  And, you know, that will come after members of Congress would have spent six weeks mostly back in their districts, listening to voters and hearing whether voters in their district think impeachment ought to be the priority, or should they be focusing on --

MATTHEWS:  What do they expect?

PAGE:  Well, I think it depends what kind of district you`re from.  If you`re from a solidly democratic strict, like AOC, you`re probably going to hear a lot of energy for impeachment.  But if you`re from the swing districts that determine who holds a majority in the House, I suspect that members will continue to hear what they`ve heard in the past, which is voters care more about issues that affect their own lives, like healthcare and education and the economy.

MATTHEWS:  Rob, it seems to be Pelosi has operated like most people do based on experience.  And she saw her party take over the House in 2018, last year, with a message that really didn`t focus on impeachment.  It focused on healthcare and sort of bread and butter issues.  I get the sense, and she has a pure power (ph) in the best sense of the word, she knows what works at the home in the back home in those districts.  And most of them -- and she wants to hold the 218 that controls the House, certainly on the west side of L.A. or the west side of New York, there are liberal bastions where you`re going to face a primary opponent, like Jerry Nadler is facing already one, a very attractive opponent, I hear.  They`re all facing them, Richie Neal up in Western Massachusetts.  He`s got a primary opponent, a couple of them.

They`re worried at home about different things.  Your thoughts about it.

ROB REINER, ACTOR, DIRECTOR AND ACTIVIST:  I`m going to disagree a little bit with your analysis in that.  The 2018 election was -- yes, there were some kitchen table issues, healthcare and education, jobs and so on.  But it was also about holding this president accountable.  We heard a lot about taking the majority and having the subpoena power to hold this president accountable.

Now, that we have it, I think that`s what`s going to happen.  You`re going to see a two-track approach.  Today, essentially, if you look carefully, and I`ve had some conversations since this came out with Laurence Tribe and others, since the filing was made by Chairman Nadler to the courts to access the grand jury material and access the ability to get Don McGahn to come and testify, if you look at that filing, the word, impeachment, is used many, many, many, many times.

And you can argue about impeachment inquiry or impeachment process or impeachment proceedings, but the fact of the matter is once a judicial body, once the Judiciary Committee becomes a judicial body and talks about impeachment as a mechanism by which they`re going to access documents and compel witnesses, then that speeds up the process.

And I think for those of us who have been clamoring to get this thing on the road, that, in a sense, started today.  And if you look very carefully, that is what started today.

MATTHEWS:  But, Rob, I don`t believe that.  I believe we`re looking at a process of just one more thing.  Oh, we`re going get Mueller, his report.  We got Mueller`s report.  Then we got Mueller in person.  Oh, he is going to dramatize and televise the whole thing, and that didn`t work.  And now it`s, oh, we`re going to get McGahn, that`s going to turn everybody around.

These numbers don`t look -- I`m going to Susan on this.  These numbers don`t look good.

PAGE:  They don`t look good and they`ve been pretty consistent.  And even though most Americans have said they don`t believe President Trump was exonerated and that Mueller`s credibility has gone up, including among republicans, that has not increased the overall number of Americans who support impeachment.

Now, most democrats support impeachment.  But if you look at the overall number, you don`t get to majority, and, in fact, you get predominance of Americans saying they do not support the idea of impeachment.

And what Chairman Nadler did today in the court filings is he tries to have it both ways.  He tries to say, you`re doing an impeachment investigation without actually forcing the House to take an impeachment vote.  And I don`t know how persuasive that`s going to be.

MATTHEWS:  Rob, you know the situation.  You know as well as I -- you`ve followed these events for years, as I have.  It seems to me the advantage, the real hammer comes when you begin an impeachment proceeding, when you actually get the House to vote for an impeachment proceeding.  That opens up a lot of doors with the courts, apparently.  Apparently, that puts a lot more pressure on people to play ball, except subpoenas, turn over the documents, do stuff like they did with Nixon.  It says we`re having a trial now, buddy, and we`re the prosecutors.  We`re no longer fishing around.  We`re serious now.

You think -- well, let me ask you this.  Bottom line, how late can they put this off before they start a formal impeachment proceeding?  How long can they put it off between now and then, between next election?

REINER:  I think it has to happen at the beginning of September, as you`ve mentioned.  But make no mistake.  What they`ve filed today does expedite things.  And that`s what needs to happen.  You need to get all that grand jury material.  You ask anybody who adjudicated Watergate, they needed the grand jury material in order to start the understanding of how to form articles of impeachment.

So that is happening now, and I take exception.  We look at polls now.  And, you know, everybody makes this argument.  Polls don`t mean anything, they change, whatever.  When people come on television, that changes people`s opinion.  We`re never going to get that 40 percent.  That 40 percent will always be there.  And that represents, you know, the Republican Party, essentially.

But think about this.  And, Chris, you remember this as well as anybody.  First of all, you had Mueller come on and everybody talked about his performance, and it was bad show business and all that.  But the reality is a record was created and there was no question about it, the President committed crimes.

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

REINER:  They worked with the Russians to try to win the election.  That`s out there.

But remember, Chris, when Fawn Hall took the stand during Iran-Contra, do you remember that?


MATTHEWS:  It was Ollie North`s secretary.  She was very beautiful.  She was sexy.  The ratings were off the charts when she took the stand.  When Hope Hicks comes or even Don McGahn, when they come and the cameras are on them, it`s going to start slowly changing it.  And those poll numbers will slowly shift.  We`re never going get that hardcore cemented 35 to 40 percent, but it doesn`t have to be that.

Congress has a responsibility to hold this president accountable.  And if they don`t do it -- you can say no one is above the law all you want.  But if you don`t hold this guy accountable, then, essentially, he is above the law.

MATTHEWS:  Let`s take that stride at right now.  We`ve got a democratic member of Congress joining us right now.  By the way, we all know the democrats retook the House of Representatives by flipping a number of formerly republican suburban seats back last year.

Congressman Jefferson Van Drew, who flipped one of districts seats in South Jersey does not support impeachment, told The New York Times, if we just let this overshadow all these other issues for a longer period of time, too long a period of time, we are really endangering the election for the democrats.

Congressman Van Drew joins us now.

Congressman, thank you.  Congratulations on winning where I grew up in Ocean City, New Jersey.  I know about the area.  I think I know as politics.  Why are you opposed to action like Rob Reiner is calling for right now to get this train rolling and have a vote eventually on impeachment?

REP. JEFFERSON VAN DREW (D-NJ):  Unless we find something new or unusual, something different that we didn`t see before, it seems that this just keeps continuing.  So, first, it was going to be the Mueller report was really going to give us the information, and it did.  I read it from the first page to the last page, and it gave some information.  And certainly there are some distasteful sections and parts of that that really are concerning, but not high crimes and misdemeanors, at least in my opinion and obviously in other people`s opinions as well.

And then it was going to be once he testified, it will come to life and it would bring the whole issue to life, and then we would move forward with impeachment.  And, of course, again, it didn`t.  So now we`re trying a different tact.

And I understand that and I want to make sure that everything is as it should be as well, but why didn`t we do that earlier?  It keeps dragging on and on and on.

And here is my issue.  Here is what I believe, and I`m talking politics now and maybe a little bit government as well.  We have lots of big issues.  I had somebody email me today and said, you know, a record number of individuals passed over this last week from drug overdoses.

And she said, you know, it`s more important that we start really dealing with that issue rather than keep letting this just overwhelm everything, or infrastructure or, you know, how about healthcare?  How about, you know, the cost of prescription drugs?  How about the way our veterans are treated in veterans` homes?  How about are we really going to be able to shore up Medicare and are we going to be able to take care of social security?  And I can go on and on and on.

Those are the issues that at the end of the day, blue collar, average democrats that we used to have and still do, but they really care about.  And so there are folks -- and let me wrap up with this.

MATTHEWS:  Okay, you`re wrapped already.  I mean, Congressman, we`ve got to get Rob a chance here.

Rob Reiner, you heard the case against moving on an impeachment.  What do you say?

REINER:  I couldn`t disagree more with the Congressman, because all of the issues that he talked about, of course, are critical.  None of them will ever, ever pass when we don`t have the White House and ultimately the Senate.  We passed a million bills already, and they lay dormant at Mitch McConnell`s feet.  That`s not going to do anything,

And if it didn`t --

VAN DREW:  That`s because we are so involved.  We are so involved with this only, or at least the perception of this only.

REINER:  No, no, no.

VAN DREW:  Look, I`m there every day.  So let me finish for a second.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman, do you think the seats like yours are in danger if the democrats move toward impeachment?

VAN DREW:  Absolutely.  I don`t even know that mine is.  You know, I was fortunate.  I won by a good number more votes than many of the other ones did.  But folks have to realize it was middle democrats, middle of the road democrats that created the majority, and that their voice counts too, and that we have to -- and, by the way, if something really new comes up, something big that we didn`t have before that really shows an impeachable offense, absolutely, any president, we should do it.

MATTHEWS:  I just want to hit you with two possibilities, and then Rob and then Susan back in here (ph).  Well, I just want to make one point.  This is fundamental.  I think it`s the main point.  If this president gets away with this, whether he gets re-elected or not, he gets away with it.  He gets away with it saying, I can play ball with the Russians or any foreign adversary, any enemy of the United States, I can play ball with.  He said that again the other day.  He said, I`m going to do what happen next time.  They`ve got some dirt for me, I`ll use it again.

He also said a president can do anything he wants.  There can`t be an obstruction of justice case made against the President under Article 2 of the Constitution.  Because under Article 2, according to Trump, he can do anything he wants with the executive.  He can tell the judiciary to do anything he wants.  He can tell a Special Counsel to do anything he wants.  What happens if he gets away with that, Congressman, gets away with it?

VAN DREW:  Well, first of all, nobody agrees with that.  And he says many things that many folks find very disheartening.  But that isn`t the point.  What happens if we literally get to election time and, you know, we get out there, and we`re going to be out in the street a lot, and that`s something I do, and you know, that because you know my area, and that`s quite frankly how I got elected numerous times.

And the bottom line is if what we`re going to say to people, well, we presided over a failed impeachment.  That`s all our major accomplishment in two years, that`s why you flipped districts, that`s why you changed the majority.  I don`t think that does the job.

Now, if there is something real there, brand-new that comes up now, I use those words, brand new, because I don`t know why now the Russian issue all of the sudden became a bigger issue than it was a week ago, a month ago, six months ago, a year ago.  You know, it seems like we`re constantly trying to move on to do something else, and the bottom line is I want us to do good stuff, and we can.

The reason that -- one of the reasons that we`re not getting certain things done with the other side is because we`re always attacking them.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  Let me go back to that.  First of all, Congressman, we talked about the Russian issue every single night here for about two years.  So we have -- this isn`t a newbie for us.

Rob, your last thought here.

REINER:  First of all, you don`t know what the polling is going to be.  You don`t know.  I would make the case that it will be great politics for the democrats to stand up and hold this guy accountable.  Second of all, you need more to see?  There were five hard examples of obstruction of justice laid out in the Mueller report.  What else do you need?

The guy is working with the Russians.  He says he is going to continue working with the Russians.  The Russians are already playing.  We`ve seen the Senate Intelligence Committee tell us that they`re playing right now and they`re working hard to defeat us.  Are we now saying that we`re just going to give ourselves over to the Russians?  We beat them in the cold war, and they`re beating us now in the cyber war.

And if we don`t stand up to them, it could be the end of our democracy.  And I`m sorry if you lose your seat, but we`ve got to stand up for democracy.

VAN DREW:  Now, we absolutely need to stand up to the Russians.  We absolutely need to stand up to the Russians.


PAGE:  Here is a debate that`s going on within the Democratic Party.  How do you hold the President accountable?  Do you hold him accountable by impeaching him or by defeating him in next year`s election?  Is that the better way?

VAN DREW:  Both.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  Congressman Jefferson Van Drew, thank you.  You`re on the front lines, sir.  I appreciate you coming on.  I know your district is going to be a tough one either way.  I know about that district.  It is not a left wing district by any means.  Thank you.

Susan Page, Rob Reiner, you`re a great citizen.  Thank you.  You know your stuff.  I think you know what everybody in this show -- our producers know.  You know it all, and it`s great to have you on.  I know your opinions and you are a passionate American.  Thank you, sir.

REINER:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  The Russians targeted election systems in all 50 states, it turned out, as Rob said, and the FBI Director says it`s still going on.  50 states, they`re probing and probing for weaknesses.  They`re casing our joint.  How exactly are the Russians infiltrating our elections?  Where is the outrage on the republican side?  They don`t seem to care.  Former CIA Director John Brennan will be here with me.

Plus, new polls show that Joe Biden is not just the clear democratic frontrunner, he`s in the best position to beat President Trump, up by ten points in the Fox poll.  Well, will that still be the case after next week`s debate?  We`ll see when his democratic rivals try to knock him down like Kamala Harris did last time.

And 50 years -- you`re going to love this, my age, people, 50 years after Woodstock tonight, whatever happened to peace and love?  Watch this.

We`re going to talk about how it happened and how it can happen again.  I`ll talk to Mick Richards, the Director of the new documentary, Creating Woodstock, about how that amazing event -- do you believe that crowd?  They weren`t paying customers either.

Much more ahead.  Stay with us.



Russian interference in the 2016 election taught us there are three principal fronts in the Kremlin`s information war against the U.S., first, Russia`s operation to hack and release private e-mails and other data, like it did with the DNC e-mails. 

Second is the proliferation of Russian propaganda, this information mainly through social media.  And third is Russia`s intrusion into state and local voting systems. 

Well, in recent months, Democrats have offered a slate of bills intended to shore up this country`s defenses, but Senate Republicans have repeatedly stood in the way. 

In fact, yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked two election security bills, including one requiring the use of paper ballots by states and counties as backup to whatever system they use. 

McConnell`s stonewalling in the wake of Robert Mueller `s warning prompted a contentious exchange with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer yesterday. 


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY):  Attacks on our elections are as great a threat to our national security as any other.

And yet, for reasons inexplicable, the Republican leader refuses to bring legislation to the floor. 

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  What my friend the Democratic leader is asking unanimous consent to pass is partisan legislation from the Democratic House of Representatives relating to American elections. 

It`s just a highly partisan bill from the same folks who spent two years hyping up a conspiracy theory about President Trump and Russia. 


MATTHEWS:  McConnell blocked the bill just hours before the Senate Intelligence Committee, a bipartisan committee, recommended that, at minimum, any machine purchased going forward should have a voter-verified paper trail, which makes sense. 

In fact, McConnell has said he will block any proposed election addressing election security before the 2020 election. 

Why does he not want to do anything before the election?  That`s when you do things. 

Well, "The New York Times" reports that he told colleagues in June he has no plans to consider stand-alone legislation on the matter this term. 

I`m joined by John Brennan, former director of the CIA under President Obama. 

Well, look, you know the situation.  It`s partisan.  Apparently, they don`t want to offend President Trump by saying there was problem in 2016. 

JOHN BRENNAN, MSNBC SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST:  Right.  But I think it`s even more than that. 

I think Mitch McConnell has one primary objective, which is to get Donald Trump reelected in 2020.  And we all know that the Russians helped Donald Trump get elected in 2016.  So why would he want to prevent possible additional assistance to Donald Trump in the upcoming election? 

MATTHEWS:  So he is Moscow Mitch, as Joe Scarborough called him this morning?  He is collaborating with the Russians? 

BRENNAN:  Well, it`s beyond my understanding as to why the majority leader of the Senate would stop something from helping us protect our voting rights and our infrastructure from not just Russian interference, but other interference. 

We are now two-plus years from the last election.  We should in fact be well down this road, but we`re not.  And it`s because of individuals like Mitch McConnell, who have put obstacle after obstacle in front of doing something that is really going to be meaningful. 

MATTHEWS:  And 53 Republican members of the Senate don`t want to do anything. 

Anyway, Mitch McConnell also had a hand in obscuring Russia`s role in election during the homestretch of the 2016 campaign.  Let`s try and remember this. 

"The Washington Post" reports that, when the Obama White House first disclosed Russia`s interference to Congress back in the fall of `16, McConnell was among a group of Republicans who didn`t want to inform the public. 

McConnell went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House`s claims. 

He was denying all this. 

BRENNAN:  I think I was the first Obama official to brief Mitch McConnell in the summer of 2016 about Russian interference.  And he basically looked at me and said, you, the Obama administration, just simply do not want Donald Trump to get elected. 

And I said, I take great offense at his insinuation or his direct claim that the CIA and others were trying to manipulate the intelligence process for some type of political end. 

So Mitch McConnell from day one was always adamantly opposed to having this government be able to honestly look at what the Russians were doing and prevent that type of interference. 

MATTHEWS:  I don`t know how they do it.  I don`t know how -- the Republican Party used to be very good on national defense, very nationalistic in that way, looking out for the reds and everybody else coming at us. 

And now they just -- they`re soft. 

BRENNAN:  Well, absolutely. 

And a lot of the Republicans pushed back against me, claiming that the Russians would never advocate to have a Republican president elected, because the Republican Party, the party of Reagan, is the one in fact that brought down the Soviet Union. 


BRENNAN:  And I said, well, that`s just it, is, Donald Trump is so unlike the Republican Party`s clear history of standing strong against the Soviet Union and Russia.

But, clearly, it was.  As Robert Mueller has said, they were trying to interfere in the election on behalf of the electoral prospects of Donald Trump. 

MATTHEWS:  Moscow Mitch, that`s the name he got this morning from Joe Scarborough. 

Anyway, yesterday, FBI Director Christopher Wray raised the prospect of foreign actors manipulating voter data, but said his bureau was working relentlessly to try to prevent it. 


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR:  We have yet, happily, to see attacks manipulating or deleting election and voter-related data or attacks that actually take election management systems offline. 

But we know that our adversaries are relentless.  So are we. 


MATTHEWS:  Relentless. 

This comes after Wray said earlier this week he has yet to read the full Mueller report.  Here he goes. 


QUESTION:  Have you read the Mueller report? 

WRAY:  I have reviewed it.  I wouldn`t say I have read every single word. 


MATTHEWS:  Let`s go now to the things that you must think about as an American. 

What do you think the worst case would be in 2020 that would possibly screw up our notion of who actually won the election? 

BRENNAN:  Well, I think, as we were concerned in 2016, if the Russians or someone else did something to try to disrupt the electoral systems, going in and maybe taking down some of the registration rolls, preventing individuals from getting to the voting booths, or manipulating some of the tabulations that might be sent from one precinct to headquarters.

It really raises questions about the integrity of the election. 


BRENNAN:  And my concern is, would Donald Trump at that stage claim that the election was fraudulent because of interference from individuals in some basement somewhere, that they manipulated it?

That`s why I think gaslighting, which is what Donald Trump has really excelled in, really has a potential, as we go -- get closer to the 2020 election, to be used once again to try to deceive the American public from what the reality is.

And the reality is, our systems need to be strengthened.  We need to have a -- some type of legislation that`s going to allow the states, along with the federal government, to try to make it as difficult as possible to interfere and to disrupt the electoral process. 

MATTHEWS:  We saw what happened. 

If you put together our recent history, what happened in 2000, where the one state screwed up its count, because they had all kinds of different voting systems, so they could never get an honest, consistent basis for equal justice down there, and then you had what the Russians tried to do in 2016. 

What would be the case, what do you think would happen if Trump found himself with neither party, neither candidate got 270 electorate votes because a state or two didn`t have an honest count, didn`t have a clear count?  Would he stick in office?  Would he not move?

BRENNAN:  I -- Michael Cohen said in his testimony in front of Congress that he really fears what Donald Trump might do if he loses the 2020 election. 

I fear that as well, and particularly since we have sycophants like Mitch McConnell and others in the Congress who are willing to allow Donald Trump to trample the rule of law for his own personal gain.  It...

MATTHEWS:  You mean refuse to leave on January 20, `21? 

BRENNAN:  A president of the United States has tremendous executive authority that he might try to leverage during that period of time either before an election to postpone it or in fact to do something if he loses. 

MATTHEWS:  I like the word gaslighting, because when you take away the people`s confidence in their ability to watch what`s going on, and you lose -- people lack -- they lack the confidence that what they just saw happen was a clean, clear election with a clear result, and they go, I don`t know what happened, then we`re in trouble. 

Thank you, John Brennan, former director of the CIA. 

Up next, et tu, Brute?  Actually, it`s et tu, Brutus.  Get the Latin right.

A new FOX poll has one Democratic candidate leading Trump by double digits, and Trump is not happy with his favorite network.  That would be FOX. 

Hear what he had to say straight ahead on HARDBALL. 

We`re back in a minute. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

With just a few days to go until the next Democratic presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden showing more signs of strength. 

A new FOX poll out today shows Biden leading the Democratic field with 33 percent, more than doubling his nearest competitor -- that`s Bernie Sanders -- at 15. 

His lead is roughly the same as before last month`s debate.  Biden is promising, in his words, by the way, to be less polite this time to his rivals after his confrontation with Senator Kamala Harris over his work with segregationist senators in the `70s and on his work as -- or his record, actually, as -- on court-ordered school busing.  He didn`t look strong there. 

In a radio interview yesterday, Biden said he was surprised by Senator Harris` attack. 


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I thought we were friends.  I mean, I hope we still will be.  You know, she asked me to go out -- and called me and asked me to go to her conversation and be the guy from outside of California to nominate her at her conversation for the Senate seat.  I did. 


MATTHEWS:  But the former vice president continues to face heat from Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who called Biden an architect of mass incarceration for his role in crafting the 1994 crime bill. 

And Biden has criticized police behavior during Booker`s tenure as mayor of Newark, New Jersey. 

Here he goes. 


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I will always speak truth to power.  And watching the crime bills of the `80s and `90s and all the things that he put into place, this is something that should be talked about. 

And the response to having a substantive conversation about people`s records shouldn`t be to go on the attack.  And I found his attacks on me ridiculous. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, meanwhile, in an interview with FOX last night, President Trump took a swipe at Biden.  Let`s watch. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Sleepy Joe is OK, but he is fading.  I think he is fading fast.  The only good thing about Mueller is, it made Joe Biden look like a dynamo. 


MATTHEWS:  But that new FOX poll also showed that it is President Trump himself who should be worried. 

Needless to say, he is not very happy about the numbers that show him well behind Joe Biden, so-called sleepy Joe. 

Stick with us. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden is vowing to fight back against his Democratic rivals at the next debate.  That`s coming up this week in Detroit. 

And, today, President Trump started a fight of his own over another poll showing him losing to Biden.  A new poll from FOX shows the former vice president beating President Trump by 10 points nationally. 

And the bad news clearly got under the president`s skin today, since he slammed his favorite network on Twitter. 

Trump tweeted: "FOX News is at it again.  So different from what they used to be during the 2016 primaries and before, proud warriors.  Now new FOX polls, which have always been terrible to me.  They had me losing big to crooked Hillary.  Have me down to sleepy Joe."

Well, he added: "There can be no way, with the greatest economy in U.S. history, that I can be losing to the sleepy one.  Keep America great." 

For more, I`m joined by Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, and Shermichael Singleton, Republican strategist. 

I want to start with the Democrat here. 

What is going on in the race?  Is something going on or nothing?  Biden is ahead.  Is he staying ahead?  What is going on?  What is -- is there any action there at all, except Elizabeth is coming up?  I noticed that.


I mean, well, Senator Warren was coming up even before the last debate.  And I think the last debate did help Kamala Harris. 

But I think what`s happened over the last couple of weeks for the vice president is that just what you talked about, the fact that he is up against Trump, the fact that he is the only candidate who is double digits up against Trump.

The fact that Trump still has really pathetic names for him like sleepy Joe, and doesn`t know how to deal with him, and still gets upset about it shows that -- I think actually provides a lot of comfort for Democrats that Vice President Biden is a strong candidate against him. 

And I think the truth is, he has to prove or disprove that in the next debate.  He can prove it, that he can take a punch and punch back.  And I think this week he is demonstrating that a little bit.  Or he can disprove it and have a suboptimal debate performance. 

And I think it`s really in his hands -- in his hands. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I would say a couple cups of coffee beforehand would be a starter.  Just get in there and be animated. 


MATTHEWS:  Your thoughts, Shermichael?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Look, I think Joe Biden has shown over the past several weeks now that the Joe Biden that we expect to see next week is the Joe Biden that a lot of people have lamented about from several years ago. 

Even internal data from the Trump campaign indicated that the president is going to struggle in certain key places.  The president`s maximum is about 40 percent, at best, within the margin of error, which can be 3 percent less than 40 percent. 


rMD+IT_rMD-IT_SINGLETON:  So, That means his room for error is significantly decreased. 

Joe Biden, I would argue, has the best opportunity, not only with Obama- Trump voters, but also with African-Americans, who did not turn out in significant numbers in 2016 in key places like Michigan or like Pennsylvania. 


Do you think Mueller`s performance this week is going to help Biden or hurt him? 

SINGLETON:  I don`t think it really matters. 

MATTHEWS:  Doesn`t raise the age issue?

SINGLETON:  No, I don`t think so.

Donald Trump is, what, 74 years old?  Seriously. 


TANDEN:  He is pretty old. 

SINGLETON:  And look at how he acts.  Right? 

I think Joe Biden has the ability to say, I am the older statesman.  I served with President Obama for eight years. 


SINGLETON:  President Obama respected and trusted me.  That matters. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let`s talk -- let`s talk serious stuff, because you know how to do this. 

I think it`s a mistake for Biden to go into Cory Booker.  I don`t think he should shoot down, first of all, no matter what Cory says.  He starts talking about the situation with the police in Newark, certainly, Cory knows more about that than Biden will ever know in a briefing session. 

And the danger of that is you do get gaslighted, because you go into a situation where you don`t know all the facts.  And all Cory has to say is, what you don`t know, Mr. President, is that I hired X-many new policemen from that group.  And Biden says, oh, I didn`t know that, you know?

It`s tough to go in the other guy`s territory. 

TANDEN:  I hear you, but I think what the lesson of the first debate was that if you let an attack go unanswered, you look weak.  And I think it`s not -- he doesn`t need to attack anybody. 

He is the front-runner right at this moment.  But if he`s attacked, he needs to defend, because I think the question for him is, his whole argument is, he is a strong candidate against Trump. 


TANDEN:  He is the strongest one.  He has to demonstrate. 

He can`t just say he is the strongest candidate.  He can`t just rely on the polls.  He has to show it.  And I think he...

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk ethnic for a second here, which I just don`t love to do, but we have to. 

He doesn`t seem to face a strong African-American opponent, a strong front- runner.  He doesn`t -- his toughest opponent is Bernie and Elizabeth and maybe Kamala. 


MATTHEWS:  But I -- at this point, he seems to be grabbing the older African-American vote, the women African-American vote in states that really matter, like South Carolina. 

SINGLETON:  Because I think a lot of African-Americans are being very pragmatic about 2020.  They just want to defeat Donald Trump. 

And I think this notion from folks like Cory Booker that continue to push back on Donald Trump -- or, Joe Biden, rather... 

MATTHEWS:  He is 2 percent now.  He is 2 percent. 

SINGLETON:  And people are saying, well, Joe Biden needs to be careful.  That`s B.S., Chris. 

If you`re going to attack Joe Biden, he has every single right to hit back on issues that matter.  I think Cory Booker may be upset that, as an African-American, he is not polling too well with other black people.  Well, look, get over it, man.  Joe Biden is. 

MATTHEWS:  What`s his problem? 

SINGLETON:  I just don`t think he is resonating very well.  I just have to be honest with you.

MATTHEWS:  What is his problem, too elite, too Ivy League?


TANDEN:  Just to be clear, we shouldn`t discount the other candidates.  We have a lot of strong other candidates.

SINGLETON:  Of course, but...

MATTHEWS:  I know.  I know.  OK.

TANDEN:  Kamala did really well in the last... 


MATTHEWS:  Big surprise.  Big news. 


SINGLETON:  But he is not. 

MATTHEWS:  Neera Tanden is telling us how great the Democrats are.


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Neera Tanden.  Thank you, Shermichael Singleton. 

SINGLETON:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  You`re showing the acuity here I`m looking for.

Up next, it was 50 years ago this summer that half-a-million young Americans descended on a farm in Upstate New York.  Look at this, Woodstock Nation.  A lot my friends still feel that way:  I`m still in Woodstock Nation. 

They haven`t changed. 

A new film offers a riveting, comprehensive look at how the Woodstock Festival actually came into being.  Director Mick Richards joins us next with lots of pictures like this, sex, drugs and rock `n` roll. 

We will be right back.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

In the summer of 1969, Woodstock defined a generation, with hundreds of thousands gathering in Upstate New York, hearing from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead. 

For organizers, the planning was as wild as the era, with last-minute venue changes, worries about lack of headliners and a lack of infrastructure to handle the masses of people that showed up. 

And as we approach the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, organizers of an anniversary festival scheduled to take place next month appear to be following the same old path.  After losing multiple venues in Upstate New York, a new location in Maryland was just announced in a last-ditch effort to keep the whole thing alive again. 

With only three weeks until the anniversary, questions remain, just like 50 years ago, will organizers pull it off?  Who will perform?  And how many people will show up to watch? 

I`m joined right now by Mick Richards, the director of a new documentary, "Creating Woodstock," about what it took to put on the iconic 1969 festival. 

Thank you, Mick, for coming on.  I really wanted you on the show tonight, because I grew up with a lot of people that said Woodstock nation is still here.  They still feel a part of it years later. 

What is going on with this effort to revive it, relive it?  And how is that compared to the way it was putting it together in the first place? 

MICK RICHARDS, DIRECTOR, "CREATING WOODSTOCK":  Well, putting it together in the first place, compared to what`s going on today, the similarities are striking. 

The battle for Wallkill.  The organizers had actually set up in Wallkill, New York.  And Wallkill -- the town Wallkill board passed a law evicting them from Wallkill.  So they literally had 28 days to find a new site and build it. 

And now Michael Lang is going through the same thing, being evicted from 21 site to another to another. 

And it`s just -- it`s very interesting that the similarities are so striking. 

MATTHEWS:  What happened?  Originally, they were charging $6.50 a day, $18 for three days.  And then it -- somehow, it became like a free festival?  How did that all happen?  Just too many people coming?  How did it become a free sort of public event?

RICHARDS:  Well, again, going back to Wallkill, they only had 28 days -- or roughly 28 days to put the festival together on Yasgur`s farm.  And they were more interested in getting the infrastructure together, the stage built, the water systems, the electric and so on, that the fences and the gates were the last things to get built, if built at all. 

So when the crowd showed up, they actually had about 30,000 people in the crowd two days before the festival was going to be -- was going to start on Wednesday morning.  So they knew, they knew going into Friday morning that they couldn`t collect tickets, and it was a free festival. 

Mike Lang said the crowd made it a free festival.  And, pretty much, they did. 

MATTHEWS:  There is something about it with the death, of course, of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.  It was so much about the excesses of the `60s and how people just went crazy. 

Was there any kind of policing up there in those days?  Or could you do whatever you felt like? 

RICHARDS:  Well, the interesting thing was, they went out and hired Wes Pomeroy to handle security. 

And Wes Pomeroy came from, I believe, from the Justice Department of the Nixon administration.  And to have such a background as that to be dealing with a festival full of hippies seems a little odd. 

But Wes was a lovely man.  And we interviewed him at his home in Florida.  And he said from the beginning it was not going to be confrontational.  They brought police up from New York City.  But they told them that they couldn`t -- they couldn`t arrest anybody for doing drugs or being naked or anything. 

They were more there to support people.  And so John Roberts and Joel Rosenman, two of the four Woodstock ventures, partners and producers, set the framework that, from the beginning, it was not going to be confrontational.

They groomed the site for people to feel at peace.  They wanted everyone to come and have a good time.  And John says that the three days of peace and music was not a shorthand way of saying, get out of Vietnam.  It was a way of saying, come to the country and have a good time, and just forget about what`s bothering you. 

So they were very, very interested in making sure that people came, had a good time, felt at peace, and didn`t have to worry about anything. 

But I think they worried about a lot of things. 


MATTHEWS:  Freedom and peace.

Thank you so much. 

I hope -- I`m going to look at that -- you know, I was in South Africa on the way home from the Peace Corps when I watched the documentary.  But it was so censored by the South African government, I couldn`t figure out what it was censored for. 


MATTHEWS:  But there was lots to censor.  Thank you -- censor. 

Thank you so much, Mick Richards, director of "Creating Woodstock."  It`s coming up. 

Up next: President Trump`s Russia confession.

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  If you listen closely, you can hear Donald Trump plead guilty to the two central charges now standing against him. 

The president says he fully intends to engage foreign government help in his reelection campaign.  Indeed, he sees nothing wrong with it. 


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS:  Your campaign this time, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on an opponent, should they accept it, or should they call the FBI? 

TRUMP:  I think maybe you do both.  I think you might want to listen.  I don`t -- there is nothing wrong with listening. 

If somebody called from a country, Norway, "We have information on your opponent," oh.  I think I would want to hear that. 

STEPHANOPOULOS:  You want that kind of interference in our elections? 

TRUMP:  It`s not an interference.  They have information.  I think I would take it. 


MATTHEWS:  Collusion, he shamelessly confesses, is not a question past, present or future with this president.  It is the answer. 

If we want a president ready and willing to play ball with an overseas adversary, we have got one. 

Trump is equally clear on the matter of obstruction.  He said this week that he can do whatever he wants as president and give any order he wants to officials in the executive branch, and that includes the Justice Department.  That includes the special prosecutor. 


TRUMP:  Then I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president, but I don`t even talk about that, because they did a report.  And there was no obstruction. 


MATTHEWS:  What we have now is a president who believes the main charges in the impeachment inquiry, accepting, welcoming, encouraging, and covering up help from the Russian government, is not only quite all right with him, but he is ready and willing to grab more next time. 

What we have is a chief executive who believes that obstruction of justice is constitutionally impossible, because a president can order anyone in the government to do anything he wants it to do. 

We have, therefore, living in the White House a man who argues, based on his understanding of the U.S. Constitution, his total exoneration. 

The only question is who in this country will lead the case against him.  And, right now, no such leader exists.  And until he or she arises, Donald J. Trump will be right there on the 2020 presidential ballot a year from this November, daring voters to say he`s wrong. 

That`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.