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Trump admits discussing Biden. TRANSCRIPT: 9/23/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Chris Murphy, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Neera Tanden, Ryan Williams


ANNIE LENNOX, SINGER AND SONGWRITER:  Another master in a completely different way.

MELBER:  Herbie Hancock.

LENNOX:  He`s like Honey.  I mean, I adore her being this genius.


MELBER:  Like Honey.  You can check out the entire interview,  That`s  We hope you`ll take a look.

"HARDBALL" is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Time for a decision.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

The American people have a decision to make, is it right or wrong for a president who took an oath to uphold the Constitution to trade the favor of his office to a foreign government to get dirt on a political rival, because we have such a case now before us.

Donald Trump has admitted this weekend to having offered the president of Ukraine his goodwill and that of his office for negative information on former Vice President Joe Biden.  And right now, the former Governor of Illinois sits in a federal penitentiary, seven years into a 14-year sentence for basically the same behavior, and his case, for trying to trade his power to fill Barack Obama`s Senate seat for personal gain.

How is this different from a transaction between a president using military aid with the visit to the White House thrown in to get negative material on a partisan opponent?

It follows multiple reports that revealed that in a phone call on July 25th of this year, President Trump repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden and his family.  In fact, Trump urged Ukrainian President Zelensky to open a probe about eight times, according to The Wall Street Journal.

And their conversation, which was brought to light by a whistleblower`s complaint reveals how this president used the power and prestige of his office for something he wanted personally.

And this stunning news comes after the president spent three years denying that he colluded with a another foreign power, Russia, to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  There has been no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians or Trump and Russians, no collusion.

There is no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians.

There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign.

There was no collusion with the campaign.

Here`s the bottom line, there was no collusion.

No collusion, no nothing.

No collusion.

No collusion.

No collusion.

There was no collusion.  There was no nothing.


MATTHEWS:  But when it comes to Ukrainian dirt on Joe Biden, he`s now admitted to doing just that.  Trump yesterday confirmed the reports that he discussed going after Joe Biden on that phone call.


TRUMP:  The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don`t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating the corruption already in the Ukraine.


MATTHEWS:  Well. as The Wall Street Journal Editorial points out, Mr. Zelensky, that`s the president of Ukraine, surely understood the potential risk of not complying with Mr. Trump`s request even if Mr. Trump wasn`t explicit.

Meanwhile, as he met today with world leaders, President Trump continued to deflect questions about Ukraine while attacking Joe Biden with unsubstantiated claims of corruption.


TRUMP:  Everybody knows it.  It`s just a Democrat witch hunt, here we go again.  They failed with Russia, they failed with recession, they failed with everything, and now they`re bringing this up.  The one who`s got the problem is Biden.

REPORTER:  On the aid question, the aid from a moment ago, did you tell the Ukrainian leader that they would have the aid only if they investigated Joe Biden and his family?

TRUMP:  No, I didn`t.  No, I didn`t.  No, I didn`t do it.  But Joe Biden said it about his son.  Joe Biden was very dishonest, what he did.


TRUMP:  Joe Biden is the one that did a very, very bad thing.  If a Republican ever said what Joe Biden said, they would be getting the electric chair right now.


MATTHEWS:  I`m joined by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Senator, once again, you see Trump in action making these Benghazi comments, this email stuff with no claim of actual information, no claim of actual guilt on the other side, just throwing crap out there.

But let`s talk about the president, what he did admit.  He admitted talking to a leader of a foreign country, trying to get dirt from him on a political opponent, using his goodwill, generally speaking, it doesn`t have to apply, it seems to me, to whether it`s the foreign aid that he`s holding up, freezing at that time, $250 million in foreign military aid or a visit to the White House.  It`s the goodwill of an American president for sale, your thoughts, to get dirt, Senator Murphy.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT):  Think of it this way, Chris.  If the Mueller report had included evidence of a phone call between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, in which Donald Trump asked Vladimir Putin eight different times for his help in the 2016 election, that would have been the smoking gun.  I don`t think Donald Trump would be in office today.  And I don`t know that it matters that that call happened with Ukraine instead of with Russia.

And as you mentioned, the quid pro quo really doesn`t matter here.  Obviously, that would elevate people`s concern, but there is an implicit threat in every single conversation an American president has with another world leader asking them to do something, especially with a country like Ukraine that is so dependent on U.S. support.

So even if he didn`t say explicitly, if you don`t investigate the Biden`s on this B.S. charges I`m making, you`re not going to get the aid, of course, Zelensky would consider that if he didn`t accede to the president`s direct personal request to him, that there would be consequences.  And I think as far as we know, Zelensky did not instigate an investigation of the Bidens.  And guess what happened, the aid got cut off.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I grew up in a time where we looked out for countries that were vulnerable to Russia, the ones that lived on its borders, and we were the good guys, whether it was Hungary or Poland or wherever, Ukraine, we were the ones that helped those captive nations become free.

And here he is, the president of the United States -- just your thoughts on the history here.  Here`s the president of the United States saying, okay, we know you`re vulnerable to the Russians, they have taken part of your country already effectively.  Do you want our help or don`t you?  If you want our help, give me the dirt on Biden.

MURPHY:  No.  Listen, this was part of the reason that I went to Ukraine three weeks ago.  I had heard that Zelensky was beside himself about the cutoff of aid but also very confused about whether these overtures involved in the 2020 election were official requests from the U.S. government.  This is a moment where you need to support Ukrainian sovereignty and their independence.

And the kind of corruption that we`re trying to root out all over the world is exactly what Trump is displaying right now.  The idea that the president would use the power of his office to try to bully people in to digging up dirt on his political opponents is exactly the kind of corruption that the State Department of the United States tries to stop and counter all over the world.  The example that we are setting is going to handicap our efforts at anti-corruption in every corner of the globe if we don`t hold the president accountable.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Senator, today, the president suggested blocking military aid to Ukraine would be appropriate.  In fact, Trump linked the aid package to Ukraine`s handling of corruption.  Here we go.


TRUMP:  Let me just tell you, what Biden did was wrong.

REPORTER:  What did you tell the Ukrainian president about Joe Biden and his son during your phone call?

TRUMP:  Well, you`re going to see, because what we are doing is we want honesty.  And if we deal with a country, we want honesty.

We`re supporting a country.  We want to make sure that country is honest.  It`s very important to talk about corruption.  If you don`t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?


MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that, Senator?  Because what he`s doing there is tying together the idea that going after Biden is part of his job, going after Biden is part of his job to remove corruption.

MURPHY:  Right.  Well, he`s making up the allegations against the vice president.  And I think that`s really important to understand.  This prosecutor that Biden and the entire world community, the IMF, the G7, all of our European partners were asking to be let go.  This prosecutor was corrupt to the bone.  And by the way, this prosecutor was not undertaking an investigation or a prosecution of the company that Hunter Biden was associated with.  And so there was no investigation to shut down or to stop.

Yesterday, Mike Pompeo went on T.V. and accused Joe Biden of election interference, which is a brand new preposterous charge, I guess, alleging that Biden somehow interfered in the American election in 2016.  It just shows that they are literally making it up as they go along.

And let`s see the transcript of the phone call.  Maybe the president of the United States lays out 10 or 20 different corruption investigations that he thinks the Ukrainians should be prosecuting and Biden is on that list.  I doubt that`s the substance of that call.  I bet the only single investigation that the president raises in that call is the one against his likely 2020 presidential opponent.

MATTHEWS:  Well, according to The Wall Street Journal, Senator, when asked if the whistleblower`s complaint should be turned over to Congress, as law requires, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas today said, is it a whistleblower or a leaker? I don`t know which.  What do you think?

I`ve watched the first branch of our government under Article 1, your branch, the United States Congress, you have had rights under statute to get things like Trump`s tax returns delivered over to the Ways and Means, and Senate Finance Committees, and now you`ve got a statute that says they have to turn over the whistleblowers complaint.  What`s going to happen?

MURPHY:  Well, the house is going to have to bring this to court.  I mean, Senator Cornyn`s comments suggests a circling of the wagons that`s happening amongst Republicans.  That`s completely predictable.  I mean, how does Senator Cornyn know the substance of this complaint?  He can`t because it hasn`t been delivered to Congress, unless he has been read in on the classified nature of it in a way that the rest of us haven`t.  So I would advise the House to go to court immediately, compel compliance with a statute which is 100 percent clear, get it before all of us and that will help us decide about how to proceed.

MATTHEWS:  Is this impeachable on its merits, Senator, going to a foreign government and trading your goodwill as president of the United States, your office, basically, so you can get dirt on an opponent to use it against him in the next election?

MURPHY:  So I have not recommended the house so far that they proceed with impeachment.  I`m going to give it some hard thought in the coming days.  But I do have trouble understanding how we would allow for there to be no accountability.  I think if the president gets away with this using the awesome power of his office to try to destroy his political opponents, trading away the credibility of the United States globally, I don`t know that we rescue our democracy from that transgression.  I think there likely has to be accountability and I`m going to think hard about the question of impeachment in the coming days.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me put it simply to you, not whether it`s good politics for Pelosi to move impeachment in the House, not whether you want to have to face the request in the Senate, which I`m sure you could, on its merits, is doing what Trump just admitted to doing over the weekend a high crime?

MURPHY:  Well, certainly if the president of the United States is using the executive branch inappropriately in order to try to destroy his political opponents, that certainly would rank among the category of offenses that could be impeachable.  I am trying to get more information about this other than the president`s bumbling statements in order to make that determination.

But if the president is using the power of his office to try to trade away American national security to benefit himself personally, there likely has to be some consequence for that.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

Well, the president insisted his request for political dirt from a foreign power was entirely appropriate.  In fact, he repeatedly said this weekend that his conversation with Ukrainian president was, here`s his word, classic Trump, perfect.


TRUMP:  We had a very great conversation, very straight, very honest conversation.

Now, I will say this, I said absolutely nothing wrong.  It was perfect.

My conversation with the president, the new president of Ukraine was perfect.

The conversation, by the way, was absolutely perfect.

That call was a great call.  It was a perfect call, a perfect call.

It was a perfect conversation.

But just so you understand, the conversation I had with the president of Ukraine was absolutely perfect.

But the conversation I had with the president of Ukraine was absolutely a ten.  It was perfect.


MATTHEWS:  I`m joined by Cynthia Alksne, former federal prosecutor, and Ned Price, former Senior Director of the National Security Council.

I guess it`s hard for me to wonder about the hesitance here, because I`m not a member of the Senate or Congress, I do think for the last three years we have all watched them investigate this presidency with one question in mind, did he collude with a foreign power to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.  They wanted an answer, because the answer was definitive.  It would be a verdict against him.  It would be impeachable and impeachment.  And now, when they get it handed to him, handed, the admission, the confession of the president, did just that in their face, we`re getting nothing but hesitance here.

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Because that`s not the question they looked at.  They looked at the question how does it affect me and my ability to get re-elected.  They aren`t really looking at whether or not it`s impeachable.  It`s clearly impeachable.  It`s a felony.  It`s --

MATTHEWS:  High crime.

ALKSNE:  It`s a high crime, absolutely.  It`s cut, it`s dry, it`s simple, it doesn`t take 17 hours to figure this thing out.  The president has essentially admitted it.

But the problem is that he`s so emboldened because they can`t do anything.  They can`t get his taxes where there`s a clear statute.  They can`t get a witness to even be respectful without holding him in contempt.  They can`t get witnesses to show up when they`re subpoenaed.  And it just makes him think I can do anything, and apparently he can because they can`t ever move the ball.

MATTHEWS:  This calculation, I said when i was working on the show today, I said there`s two different questions, we`ve got to separate the dam too.  Is it the Democrat`s interest to impeach, separate question, politically?  They have made their own partisan -- and it is a partisan calculation.  Other question, for the American people, is this their idea of the American presidency?  Is this what they hold to be acceptable behavior or unacceptable behavior?

NED PRICE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  So I`m no expert in public polling or data of that sort.  But I think the American people want a president who works for them, not a president who works for him.  And I think this is what we have seen with the president over and over again.  First, it was his financial interests and shepherding the vice president to his Irish resort, hosting world leaders at Mar-a-Lago, turning the dining room into a very unsecure White House situation room.

And now, we`re seeing a very different side of it where the president is absolutely subverting our foreign policy and national securities in many ways and actually using it for him, putting our national interests below his personal political interests.

MATTHEWS:  Will it stop?

PRICE:  Why would it?  He has not been held to account yet.

MATTHEWS:  Somebody pointed this out to me a couple of hours ago this afternoon.  The day they was on the phone with President Zelensky of Ukraine making this offer, hey, you want my goodwill, buddy, come across with dirt some on my opponent, is the day after Mueller testified.

ALKSNE:  Right, exactly.

MATTHEWS:  The minute he knew he was clear, the Mueller testimony was not powerful enough, it wasn`t clear enough or strong, he said, okay, I got away with that one.  I got away with Russia and I`m doing Ukraine now.

ALKSNE:  He already had made that calculation because he`d already sent Giuliani in May and June and August to meet with these people.  He already knew they were feckless by then.  We all knew they were feckless by then.

MATTHEWS:  What does feckless mean?

ALKSNE:  Feckless means incapable of getting anything done to the point of embarrassment.  That`s what it means to me.

MATTHEWS:  When I`m watching -- you`re in national security.  I`m glad we`re talking about the real stuff here and not the process, because all on air for three years is process.  Guys like Schiff is probably a brilliant guy about process and law.  And Jerry Nadler, the head of the House Judiciary Committee, they all know the law, but they do not understand to focus every day on the substance.  What are we talking about here?  A president of the United States who gets up in the morning and says, you know how I can use the office today, it`s a lot Blagojevich, how can I use this power?  Blagojevich was saying he`s in prison for 14 years for this, how can I sell Barack Obama`s Senate seat, and Trump says how can I use the presidency to get some of this dirt I want?

PRICE:  Look, I think Adam Schiff has driven this train in 100 miles an hour in the same direction since we found out about this.  It was only just a little over a week ago that this mysterious statement went up from Adam Schiff`s office saying the executive branch is withholding a whistleblower complaint that has been deemed urgent and credible.  Less than a week later or just over a week later, we know a tremendous amount of content.

The other piece of, I think, we have to remember in all this is the thing that gnaws at me, is that the inspector general of the intelligence community testified behind closed doors last week, reportedly, at least, that this involved multiple acts, that Ukraine called, the July 25th phone call may be just the tip of the iceberg.  We don`t know.  I think we`re going to hear more from the DNI this week.  The president is going to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart on Wednesday.  That will be an interesting meeting to watch.

MATTHEWS:  As long as one-fifth of the American people are willing to push for impeachment, Pelosi ain`t going to do it.  We`re going to give you the phone number for Congress at the end of the show.  It`s time for the voice of the people.

ALKSNE:  Yes.  And I`m not sure it`s fair to put Schiff and Nadler in the same group.  I think Schiff can and will be more effective or maybe I`m just --

MATTHEWS:  I`m waiting (ph).

ALKSNE:  But he`s capable.  He`s got this big meeting --

MATTHEWS:  We`ll know Thursday.

ALKSNE:  This week, the Congress is going to decide if they`re an equal branch of government or not.

MATTHEWS:  If they found out they`re going to get this complaint or not and they have to get a right to the complaint under statutes that they passed in Congress, signed by the president that they have to give this information, the whistleblower came up with the president`s phone call.  If they don`t get it, Congress is irrelevant.

Thank you, Cynthia Alksne.  Thank you, Ned Price.

Coming up, the Republican fog machine for Hillary was Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi, and the emails, the emails, the emails, and now, it`s Biden and it`s Ukraine.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY:  Do you know what I found out about Joe Biden?   Do you know what I told my colleague?  They`re going to cover this up.  Too bad Biden is involved in this.  I got a nice straight case of Ukrainian collusion.


MATTHEWS:  It doesn`t matter that the allegations are untrue or not even spelled out by this crowd.  They keep hammering away at it without actually saying what`s wrong.  What did Biden do wrong, please tell us?

Plus, Elizabeth Warren surges ahead in Iowa.  She`s ahead of Biden now.  The Democrats know that whoever wins the caucuses out there almost always gets the nomination.  So what can Biden, Bernie and the others do to stop her?  Look, she`s going fast.

We`ve got much more coming to get to tonight.  Stick with us.



MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS:  Did the president threaten to cut off aid... 


BARTIROMO:  ... to the Ukraine?

GIULIANI:  No.  No.  That was a false story. 

BARTIROMO:  One hundred percent? 

GIULIANI:  Well, I can`t tell you if it`s 100 percent. 


BARTIROMO:  But we know that...



MATTHEWS:  I can`t tell you, Rudy`s -- a moment of honesty from Rudy Giuliani. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

This weekend, President Trump`s personal -- there he was -- Rudy Giuliani continued to defend -- sort of -- the president`s dealings with Ukraine.

Giuliani also continued to alleged misdeeds committed by former Vice President Joe Biden. 


GIULIANI:  Joe Biden knew that they were zeroing in on Hunter.

And he went over there and he got him fired. 

Do you know, when I found out about Joe Biden, do know what I told my colleague?  They are going to cover this up. 

Too bad Biden is involved in this.  I got a nice straight case of Ukrainian collusion. 

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS:  You`re straying into areas of opinion, as opposed to fact.

GIULIANI:  No, I`m not.  I`m straying into what is wrong with us today.


MATTHEWS:  But the facts are not in Giuliani`s corner. 

As "The Washington Post" reports: "No evidence has surfaced that Biden acted inappropriately, and Trump`s allies did not provide such evidence."

Giuliani wasn`t alone this weekend in pushing the president`s talking points. 


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  If there was election interference that took place by the vice president, I think the American people deserve to know. 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  I`m hoping the Department of Justice will look at the Biden-Ukraine connection like we looked at the Trump-Russia connection. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, "The Washington Post" notes again there is no evidence that Biden played any role in election interference efforts by foreign governments in 2016. 

Meanwhile, on CNN, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin attempted to criticize Hunter Biden`s business with Ukraine, while avoiding questions over how that differs from the business dealings of President Trump`s children. 


STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY:  What I do find is inappropriate is the fact that Vice President Biden at the time`s son did very significant business dealings in Ukraine. 

JAKE TAPPER, CNN:  So it is OK for Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump Jr. to do business all over the world, it`s OK for Ivanka Trump to have copyrights approved all over the world while President Trump is president, but while Vice President Joe Biden was vice president, his son shouldn`t have been able to do business dealings? 

MNUCHIN:  Again, I don`t -- I don`t really want to go into more of these details.



MATTHEWS:  He -- when it comes to using talking points, that man is an amateur.  He may know how to make money, but he doesn`t know anything about politics.

I`m joined by Charlie Sykes, editor in chief of The Bulwark, and Eugene Robinson, who you just saw enjoying this absurdity.

Gene, didn`t he expect that that would be the counterpoint?


No, apparently not, no, apparently.  Mnuchin is not good at this.  So he`s not good at the talking points game.

MATTHEWS:  That`s the last time he`s going to take talking points and use them.

ROBINSON:  Exactly. 

But it`s ridiculous.  Let`s just establish the baseline.  This whole thing they`re trying to cook up is a lie.  There was no investigation of Hunter Biden under way when the prosecutor was fired. 

The prosecutor was corrupt, tied to the old pro-Russian government.  The G7 and the E.U. and everybody wanted this guy gone.  He was a corrupt remnant of the old regime, and everybody wanted him out.  And Biden managed to dislodge him.  That`s what happened. 

MATTHEWS:  Charlie, help me with this, because this is new to me.  I think it`s new to me. 

There`s certain words you can say right of center all the way through Trump land, and they just do -- it`s a question that answers itself. 


MATTHEWS:  So you just say, as if like presto or bingo -- at a bingo party, you just yell out, Benghazi.  And you go, oh, yes, that`s right. 

What are they saying that`s right to?  Or they just say e-mails.  Oh, I love that one.  And that`s it.  The question is the answer.  We hate her.  We hate Hillary.  It`s like a buzzword. 

SYKES:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Just say, do you like Hillary?  Do you hate Hillary?  Yes, we will say the Benghazi.  We will say -- with this guy -- with Biden, it`s going to be Ukraine. 

They`re going to say it.  You know that Trump`s teaching to the choir now the words to speak.

But don`t any Republicans -- doesn`t a single Republican say, what are you getting at?  What are you talking about, Mr. President?  What is this?  Don`t they ever ask the question, what?

Your thoughts.

SYKES:  I think your phrase about the fog machine was right on target here. 

But, actually, we are kind of in a new phase.  And we saw this over the weekend.  We spent the last couple of years talking about Republican complicity or Republican silence.  What you saw there was all in on the Trump conspiracy theories in this -- this -- it`s sort of like Hitchcock`s "Gaslight" meets Orwell, these fabricated stories that they are putting forward. 

And, again, this is part of the -- this is the now -- by now familiar playbook that we have seen, flipping the script, projecting whatever you -- wrongdoing you are doing on to the other guy. 

And I think this is going to be a stress test.  It`s going to be a stress test for the media in how they cover this, whether they`re going to be sucked into this, this narrative.  It`s going to be a stress test, obviously, for the rule of law, and for what -- how Congress deals with all of this, because, I mean, think about what Republicans are doing right now. 

They have spent the last three years saying, absolutely not, there`s no collusion.  How dare you suggest that the president engaged in any collusion with Russia?

And this week, they`re in, well of course he colluded with a foreign power.  That`s his job.  He is supposed to collude.  There`s nothing wrong with collusion.  And

so it`s a -- it`s a remarkable moment in our political history. 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, Rudy Giuliani said over the weekend he`s been working toward this moment for months.  This is what he wants, this conversation.  Let`s figure that one out. 

Republicans have also been relatively silent on the implications of Trump discussing Biden with the Ukrainian president. 


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  It is regrettable that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Schiff and Senator Schumer have chosen to politicize the issue. 

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA):  I don`t know the context.  I don`t know what was said.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA):  This is not something I`d ever see the president doing.  And I would, instead of jump to conclusions, actually get the facts first. 


MATTHEWS:  I love that Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania:  I`m just asleep here.  I don`t know.  Don`t know nothing, the Sergeant Schultz answer.  I don`t know nothing. 


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, the president -- actually, here`s what -- I call him the president by mistake, because sometimes he acts like one, Mitt Romney.

  He tweeted this weekend: "If the president asked or pressured Ukraine`s president to investigate his political rival, it would be troubling in the extreme."  That`s Mitt Romney. 

He was pressed on that comment by NBC late today. 


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT):  The allegations that were made in the -- in the press are quite serious.  And the question now is, what exactly did happen? 

QUESTION:  Do you need the transcript?  Because the president has already admitted that he did have this conversation with Ukrainians` leader and that he did talk about the Bidens, and that he did, in effect, ask this foreign power to investigate one of his political opponents. 

ROMNEY:  He said he spoke, mentioned President -- excuse me -- Vice President Biden`s name, but did not ask for an investigation. 

He did not say that.  He may have, by the way.  I just don`t know whether that was in fact said by the president or not. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go back to this. 

What do you think, Charlie they`re up to with Bide?  I mean, Giuliani has been so -- he calls Vice President Biden`s son a drug addict.  The line is being thrown out.  The stuff, what used to consider dirtball in politics, just -- this is the weekend to dump it. 

Are they trying to get Biden to react?  Is that what they`re up to, to get it -- to ignite him? 

SYKES:  Well, I think that what they`re trying to do is to smear him and to derail him.

And what`s extraordinary about this is, the president of the United States and his allies are fabricating many of the allegations.  As Eugene mentioned, a lot of this has no basis in fact whatsoever. 

And I think part of this is the brazenness of the president, knowing that he can do this, knowing he has Cabinet members, including, by the way, the secretary of state of the United States, who is going to go out and fabricate some of these allegations...

  MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SYKES:  ... knowing that Republicans will either be silent or go along with it, and knowing that he has a friendly news media that will be an echo chamber for all of this. 

And so, yes, I think he thinks that Joe Biden poses the greatest threat to his reelection.  This is a way of doing to him what he did to Hillary Clinton, toxifying him.  And if he derails his campaign, great.

If Biden goes on and gets the nomination, you will be hearing about this throughout 2020. 

MATTHEWS:  Gene, I also think it`s probably a road map to whoever the Democratic nominee is. 


MATTHEWS:  He`s just got a report -- "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll that 70 percent of the American people don`t like this guy, don`t think he`s worthy to be president. 

ROBINSON:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Personally, he`s got to destroy -- turn his opponent into a skunk.

ROBINSON:  Well, exactly.

His negatives are so high, that he`s got to raise the negatives of whoever he runs against.  And that`s what he`s going to try to do. 

He was fortunate in running against Hillary Clinton, who had high negatives to begin with.  It`s the only way he got elected president.


ROBINSON:  And nobody in the field now is anywhere near that in terms of unlikableness, or high negatives, as Hillary Clinton was. 

So it`s just -- we`re going to see more and more of it.  As Charlie said, this is the playbook. 

I would point out one thing.  When we say, let`s get the transcript, no, let`s not just get the transcript.  They need to get the entire whistle- blower complaint. 


ROBINSON:  Because...

MATTHEWS:  The law requires they turn it over.

ROBINSON:  Well, the law requires they turn it over. 

SYKES:  Yes. 

ROBINSON:  And, apparently, the complaint, it has been reported, involves more than one incident. 

So it`s not just -- just this one transcript of this one phone call.  There are other things involved in this report, apparently. 

MATTHEWS:  Well done.  Thank you, Gene Robinson, so much. 

Thank you, Charlie Sykes.

Up next:  Does this latest scandal change the impeachment equation for Democrats? 

I talked about the politics.  The partisan Democrats, what are they going to think about this?  Do they have enough fire?  Can they create enough fire from this fact of what Trump`s really admitted now to move forward? 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

President Trump`s brazen solicitation of dirt on a political adversary, Joe Biden, under the guise of conducting foreign policy, has reignited the debate over impeachment within the House Democratic Caucus. 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to her Democratic Caucus members explaining that she expects the acting director of national intelligence to hand over that whistle-blower`s complaint and make it available to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. 

She ended the letter with a vague new threat: "If the administration persists in blocking this whistle-blower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the president, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness, which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation."

And there`s breaking news just tonight from "The Washington Post."

House Democratic leaders have called a caucus meeting tomorrow afternoon to discuss questions of impeachment. 

For more, I`m joined by Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democrat from Illinois and a member of both the Oversight and Intelligence committees. 

Congressman, this meeting tomorrow afternoon called by Pelosi, what do you make of it?  Is this going to be a decision-making meeting or a meeting to calm you People down? 

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL):  I think it`s probably going to be a meeting where people can express their views and have a chance to kind of weigh in on what`s happening this week. 

I just want to point to you the seriousness of what`s about to happen this Thursday.  It`s a follow-on to hearing, a closed-door hearing that we had last week, probably the most sobering intelligence hearing I have been to.

We had a witness from central casting who basically came in and gave very careful, considered and consistent testimony, basically saying to us, do something about this complaint.  And he happened to be appointed by the Trump administration. 

So that`s why I think people are so concerned right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s the inspector general.  But what about the head of the DNI? 


MATTHEWS:  Is he going -- the director of national intelligence, you`re going to have him in on Thursday, Mr. Maguire.


MATTHEWS:  If he stiffs you guys, if he strong-arms -- straight-arms you and say, you`re not going to get the complaint, even though the law requires you get it, what then?

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  Well, he backs us into a corner.

The Trump administration backs us into a corner, where we have to basically look at other tools.  As Chairman Schiff said, essentially, at that point, we have a couple different options.  I think going down the impeachment road might be one of them. 

I think -- right now, I think a lot of my colleagues -- by the way, during that hearing last week, Republicans were unusually engaged on this particular issue, in part because this guy, the inspector general, has no reason to lie. 

In fact, telling the truth probably might cost him his career. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think we know already the heart of the conversation.  The president was seeking dirt against a political opponent and using the goodwill of the American presidency to get it. 

Let me -- you -- ask you that central question now, Congressman.  Would it be a high crime for a president to do such a thing? 

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  Yes, I think -- the Mueller investigation was about whether the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians to interfere in our democracy. 

Here, if the reporting is accurate, then Trump is inviting and asking another power to interfere in our democracy and conspiring with them in the process. 

This is, in my opinion, even worse than what was thought to potentially have happened in 2016. 

MATTHEWS:  Tell me why you think this is what it is, a high crime.

Describe the transaction that we -- we understand the president have been engaged in with the -- with the Ukrainian president, Zelensky.

What was the transaction, as you understood it? 

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  Well, we know, at a minimum, that he talked about -- according to the reporting, if it`s accurate, that he talked about investigating Vice President Biden.

The other fact which is also in the mix, which we`re not sure about, was whether there was a quid pro quo.  Namely, we will give you aid, which you were already obligated to receive, in return for conducting this inquiry in Biden. 

So that even makes the situation worse.  And so that`s why we have to get that complaint.  We have to get the transcript of the calls as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Where`s Pelosi on this? 

Because you have about 130-35 members of the House Democrats, of the caucus, who are for beginning a formal impeachment process.


MATTHEWS: You`ve got about a hundred who aren`t on board for doing it.  How many will it take to get Pelosi to move and say, yes, we`re going to go ahead with a formal resolution of impeachment to begin the procedures?

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  I don`t know.  You`d have to ask her.  But what I do know is that right now we have a majority of the caucus, including myself who would urge the impeachment process to begin, but that`s not a majority of the House.


KRISHNAMOORTHI:  And you do need a majority of the House to proceed.  So I think that might be weighing on any calculations here as well. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let`s see how that moves by Thursday, if you get stiff armed again, I don`t know what you can do. 

Anyway, thank you, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  Thank you.  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much from Illinois. 


MATTHEWS:  Up next, all eyes are on Iowa now.  A new poll has Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts in the lead now.  It happened over the weekend. 

"Des Moines Register" poll, first time she`s ahead of Biden, way ahead of schedule.  Is she the new front runner?  Of course.  The question is, will she be the frontrunner come February 3rd when they vote in Iowa. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The Democratic presidential candidates now begin a four-month race to win the first presidential test in Iowa.  Seventeen of the candidates were in Iowa this weekend for the annual steak fry, as a new poll showed a significant shake up among the race`s top tier.  With Senator Elizabeth Warren overtaking former Vice President Joe Biden for the first time.  She`s in first place. 

The "Des Moines Register"/CNN poll of likely caucusgoers shows Warren leading at 22 points, 22 percent, a seven-point increase since June.  Biden follows closely behind at 20 percent, down three points since June. 

Senator Bernie Sanders not doing so well, he`s in third place at 11 percent, down 5 points since June.  Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris rounding out the top five. 

I`m watching Pete Buttigieg, by the way.  I think he`s the sleeper. 

Since 1976, each Democrat who has won the Iowa caucuses has gone on to win the Democratic nomination with only two exceptions, Dick Gephardt of neighboring Missouri, won in 1988, Iowa native Tom Harkin, who won in the `90.  All the rest won.  Won in Iowa, won the whole thing.

But the new poll also indicates that the race for Iowa is far from over, and that`s coming up next, it`s very volatile, as I said, watch Buttigieg. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is surging in Iowa right now, narrowly overtaking former Vice President Joe Biden in the latest "Des Moines Register" poll out this weekend.  In Michigan on Sunday, Senator Warren was asked about her new presumptive front runner status. 


REPORTER:  The new polls out in Iowa today show you surging, are you a candidate to beat in Iowa?  Are you candidate to beat Biden there? 

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don`t do polls.  We are still months away from the Iowa caucuses, and the first primary elections. 


MATTHEWS:  I`m still waiting to meet my first politician who doesn`t hire a pollster.  Anyway, in fact, with more than 130 days to go until the Iowa caucuses, "The Register" poll out there show that among those with the first choice candidate, more than 2/3 of likely caucusgoers say they could be persuaded to support another candidate.  So, they`re loosey-goosy out there in the caucusgoers. 

For more, I`m joined by Neera Tanden, CEO of the Center for American Progress, and Ryan Williams, Republican strategist. 

One thing I have noticed over the last week, and I think -- it`s not that she`s going to get bashed like Biden may get bashed by this president, but she`s going to be under scrutiny.  Front runners get a lot of scrutiny. 


MATTHEWS:  She`s going to have to answer the George Stephanopoulos question, the question I raised, what`s this all going to cost?

Right now, you -- everybody who look at their paychecks now, you can see you pay a certain Medicare tax.  It`s basically $1.45 for every $100.  It`s 1-1/2 points.

If you`re going to have Medicare-for-All, then obviously, it`s going to have to go up, she won`t answer the question.  She`s going to have to answer that question.  How much your Medicare tax going up if you get Medicare-for-All? 

TANDEN:  I think that -- you sat with Pete Buttigieg over the weekend, he`s already asking that question.  He`s pushed that question out.  A lot of other candidates have asked that question. 

I think in the next debate, she will have to have an answer to that question.  I do think she`s --

MATTHEWS:  A numerical answer. 

TANDEN:  I mean, a yes-or-no answer to the question. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, yes or no.

TANDEN:  She has to answer it in some form or fashion.  She`s been saying that costs overall will be better.  But I think she has to just answer the question in fact. 

But I do think -- look, she`s running a great campaign.  She has great crowds.  I do think -- I have been in primary campaigns that were ahead in September that weren`t ahead at this point.  You do -- there`s a lot of people who were actually still deciding. 

MATTHEWS:  Neera asked an interesting point, and that is she`s raised a name Pete Buttigieg.  I`m waiting maybe because I love politics, just the contest of it and the surprise of it.  I don`t like everything written down ahead of time.  Buttigieg may appeal to those people that literally like to spend a lot of time with candidates.  They`re very thoughtful in Iowa.  They`re a little bit to the left, a little more populist than the rest of the country. 

But I -- my God, if that guy goes in there and gives those paragraph by paragraph answers to every question as if he had the question two weeks ago, I think he`s rising up -- he`s already starting to rise out there. 

RYAN WILLIAMS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  He could be the sleeper if Warren and Biden and Sanders blow each other up in the debates heading into the caucuses. 


WILLIAMS:  He shoots the middle because people like him in the Democratic Party.  He`s not -- he`s not in the top three at this point, but he`s right there in the kind of the back of the pack amongst the serious candidates. 

MATTHEWS:  All right.

WILLIAMS:  And there`s a long way to go.  If Warren is having a moment, she`s definitely the front-runner at this point. 

MATTHEWS:  A bit too early. 

WILLIAMS:  It`s a little early.  If this was November or December, I think she would feel better about it, but she does have a good organization in place to capture the voters that are coming --


MATTHEWS:  OK, is Bernie done?

TANDEN:  It`s always good to be ahead. 

MATTHEWS:  Is Bernie done?  I want to have fun here.  Is Bernie done? 


MATTHEWS:  I thought Bernie -- people love him and you`ve got to give him his authenticity.  It is -- this guy has been selling this point of view, Democratic socialism for most of his adult life.  But I didn`t think he was in control of the last debate.  I thought he looked like Christopher Lloyd in "Back to the Future," he was all over the place. 

TANDEN:  I think -- 

MATTHEWS:  He didn`t look like a president. 

TANDEN:  I think a really important difference between Warren`s numbers in the "Des Moines Register" poll and Sanders is that Warren is playing both Clinton voters and from Sanders voters. 

MATTHEWS:  What are Clinton voters? 

TANDEN:  People who voted in 2016 for Hillary. 


TANDEN:  Both -- Warren is getting basically equally from both sides.


TANDEN:  Sanders hasn`t pulled any Clinton voters to his side.  I think he doesn`t so far have a campaign to expand, but maybe he will.  I mean, he`s a stern campaigner.  I do not want to take that away from him.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of David Brooks` comment this week?  I`m not usually a big -- he`s more conservative than me. 

But Brooks said the point that he said Senator Warren is very self-aware.  She knows how she comes across.  She knows what just to correct, which is very smart in a politician.  You can see, well, that`s a least I got to fix that. 

Bernie`s not self-aware.  He`s just Bernie.

What do you think of that?

WILLIAMS:  I think that`s right.

Look, she`s trying to play up her Midwest background, senator from Harvard.


WILLIAMS:  You know -- 

MATTHEWS:  Oklahoma.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, Massachusetts.  I think that`s right.

Bernie Sanders is Bernie Sanders.  He`s a disheveled guy that says what he`s going to say and that`s what he`s on issue -- 


TANDEN:  I mean, that`s what -- that`s what his campaign sells.  And he says, you know, the same thing no matter what. 

WILLIAMS:  Not message testing or anything.

TANDEN:  Like for his supporters, a boon for him.  A big question for him has always been, can he expand beyond his base? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, disheveled was never a calculation, he just is.  I think everyone would say, that`s authentic. 

Anyway, "Politico" is reporting that the Trump campaign is pessimistic about Michigan now because they just won it by 10,000.  Of course, they`re going to be pessimist.  After a midterm election that decimated the ranks of Michigan Republicans, Trump`s campaign is looking to other battle grounds he lost last time like Minnesota and New Hampshire. 

Look, I think that`s nonsense.  He`s going to lose Michigan and that`s the question to worry about.  Let me go right now. 

TANDEN:  This I think is a function of his entire presidency.  He spent no time in the last three years trying to reach out to any voters that aren`t his base.  That just puts you in a precarious position -- 


TANDEN:  -- in any state in which you barely won.  And, of course, the Democrats did very well in all the House races in Michigan and in the governor`s race, who -- a woman who -- Gretchen Whitmer won comfortably. 

MATTHEWS:  Scott Perry, Pennsylvania, I`ll look at the numbers --

WILLIAMS:  He doesn`t need Michigan. 


MATTHEWS:  I went to the numbers.

Anyway, thank you so much, Neera Tanden.  I don`t know why they write that in Politico".  I thought it was ridiculous.  He`s looking to New Hampshire to make up for -- give me a break.  You`ve got to win the country. 

Thank you, Neera Tanden.  You`re great.  Thank you, Ryan Williams, thank you.

Coming up -- I know, because I got analysis from you, I love it. 

TANDEN:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  And you too.  Thank you.

I want -- ahead, the president colluded with foreign leader to get dirt on an opponent, what do we make of that and what can we do about it?  That`s the big question.  What can we do about a president openly admitting, OK, I`m going after dirt on Biden, from other president?

That`s next. 


MATTHEWS:  I want to place this question before you.  You.  Should this man be serving as your president? 

You`ve been following this story of Donald Trump for months and for all these months since it came out that he`d accepted help from a foreign government to get elected.  And now, we all see, clearly, he`s doing it again.  He admits talking with the president of Ukraine to get dirt on Joe Biden. 

The difference is, this time, we don`t have to connect the dots.  We don`t have to piece together a meeting at Trump Tower built on the promise of dirt on Hillary Clinton, a meeting in June of 2016 involving his son and a messenger from Moscow.  We don`t have to link father to son, messenger to Putin.  No. 

Here we have the president of the United States admitting that he told the president of Ukraine he wanted dirt.  He offered up over the weekend what it took Democrats three years to muster, a presidential confession that he traded his office for personal political gain.  As I said at the beginning of the show, much the same as Rod Blagojevich tried selling his power to fill Barack Obama`s Senate seat to feather his political nest. 

Corruption takes many forms, but usually it comes down to this one -- a politician using the power given to him by office to get something for himself.  If you see it this way, the switchboard for your member of Congress in Washington is 202-225-3121, 202-225-3121, and ask for his or her office.  If they won`t vote, you can. 

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.